I worry about America. When I was young, despite all its problems, America was greater than life, always beaming with optimism with a vision of a better future always ahead. Now that I’m getting older I’m very much unsure. Maybe I now know so much more than when I was younger, that is highly likely, but I’m not blind to seeing the changes over the past few decades.
When does a civilization recognize that it is in decline? When does it realize that its best days are behind it? It’s probably a much easier question to answer for historians with the benefit of a historical record and viewed through the lens of time, but much harder, if not impossible, for witnesses in the midst of history unfolding.
I ask these questions because it is hard not to worry about the state of the US or Western democracies in general these days. From my perch we are witnessing the end of trust, trust in government, trust in fairness, trust in each other. It’s not something that’s suddenly evolved, it’s been coming for a long time, but perhaps we’re just approaching peak realization. 50% of eligible voters already don’t vote in US presidential elections, they have no sense of stake or trust in the outcome. Nepotism and corruption appear rife in aspects of government and general success in life. I could list a myriad of examples, you can as well. The recent corruption scandal in college admissions being the latest example of many confirming an already prevailing sense that the world is rigged. Politics are getting ever more polarized and a common reality seems increasingly out of reach.
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