A Reality Check
When we get real, we can become real.
Growth and the expression of our potential require integrity; we have to get real. It requires self-awareness and an acknowledgment of our weaknesses and mistakes. Stagnation results when we fail to examine our lives and state of being. Believing in our infallibility and greatness assures us of failure and deterioration. It won’t get better. It’ll get worse, but when we get real, we can become real.
What is true for an individual is true for a nation. Americans tend to believe in exceptionalism, that we are the exception, that we are special. The challenge of exceptionalism is that it gives rise to the belief that we are “better than;” we are better than other nations and other people. We are the greatest nation on earth or so we believe.
The Basis of Our Greatness
America’s military is the most technologically advanced force in human history. Currently, we have the number one economy in the world. Many believe China will soon eclipse us in this regard.
Notice the basis of our declared greatness: military might and money.
It used to be that our “greatness” was not might or money, but ideas, ideas like freedom, equality and opportunity. It is what people admired about America. No more.
Time To Get Real
Here are some facts. Please know the data is constantly changing, but the trend is reliable.
- The US leads the world in illegal drug use. We’re #1.
- The US leads the world in drug overdose deaths. We’re #1.
- The US leads the world in arms sales. We’re #1.
- Americans own more guns per capita than any population in the world. Yemen is #2. We’re #1.
- From 1966 to 2012, the US had more mass shootings than any other country in the world. We’re #1.
- US students are ranked 17th out of 34 comparable nations in education. We are 26th out of 34 in math.
- US women rank 72nd in political equality.
- US citizens rank 19th in happiness. In 2007 we were 3rd. The steep decline is because of an increasing distrust of government and the rise of inequality. Isn’t it interesting that there is great distrust of Congress; their approval rating is an abysmal 16%, and yet we keep electing the same officials thus perpetuating the consciousness of distrust.
- The US spends more per capita on healthcare than any country, but we have one of the worst life expectancies of comparable countries. The citizens of 30 countries have greater life expectancy than US citizens.
- Only Canada ranks higher than the US for people who use emergency services for what should be doctor visits.
The Death Of Mighty Trees
Take a walk in the forest, and you will see fallen timber. In some instances, you will see large, powerful trees lying on the ground. They did not tumble because of wind and storm. Look closely, and you will discover that the centers of the mighty trees are decayed and hollow. The mighty trees, the greatest in the forest, perished from within.
Trees fall and so do nations. It takes awhile, for the loss of values and the forgetting of founding principles are often slow, but steady processes. It is insidious because the real problem is that the signs of infestation are ignored.
Here are some of the signs of the hollowing of these United States, but remember the greatest sign is the belief in exceptionalism and the lack of willingness to admit our problems and take appropriate steps to resolve them.
- Gun violence
- National debt
- Laws and policies that concentrate wealth in the hands of a few.
- The lack of willingness to build on the foundation of the Affordable Care Act for the health and well-being of the people of our nation.
- Senators and Representatives who refuse to work together creatively for the common good. (This, dear friends, is in our hands because we keep electing individuals who perpetuate this behavior. If we elect different leadership, we will have a new nation.)
The problem is not simply an impotent Congress with their narrow view of pet issues and fixation on reelection and power. These members of Congress are a manifestation of the collective consciousness of the people of the nation. I conclude that we the citizens are narrow in our view of what is important.
Politics obscures principles. A good example is the merger of politics and religion. There is supposed to be a separation of church and state, but whenever they join hands, the hand of the church is soiled. During the last presidential election, the religious right that speaks of its allegiance to family values helped to elect a president without those values. The amoral rhetoric and behavior of Mr. Trump was evident for the many months of the campaign, but the handholding continued, and principles and family values were devalued.
The Real Problem
The real problem is that we won’t get real with ourselves. We hide behind our “greatness” or “becoming great again,” when there is work to be done and we refuse to do it.
We are not electing individuals to Congress that embody the nation’s founding ideals. We the people have a political agenda instead of a leadership agenda. I believe that if we put leaders in leadership positions, change for the good will happen. This is our first and most important task as citizens.
The task of a leader is to deal with the real problems. One blatant symptom of our society is gun violence. We have a problem, and we won’t do anything about it.
We proclaim we are a peaceful people, but we export more weapons than any nation on earth.
The list is legion.
The Greatest Threat
Nearly every day of my working life, I stood shoulder to shoulder with people struggling with the challenge of the human experience. The only people who faltered where those who were not real, those who could not acknowledge their mistakes and their role in the problems they faced.
Their lack of responsibility left them powerless. As strange as it may seem, acknowledging mistakes is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. It is the first step to solving our dilemmas.
Responsible people are not exceptions. They are not better than others. They are not great. They are empowered and willing to act. They are real, because they got real.
A Tree Falls In The Forest
I stand in the midst of a forest. Mammoth trees surround me. There is no storm, no wind, but I hear the sound of virgin timber clashing to the ground. It is no more. How could it be? There is no wind, no storm.
And then it comes to me—although seemingly great on the outside; it was hollow on the inside.