Are we the United States of Amnesia, creatively rewriting our stories to soften their marks on history? We’re a nation born of the genocide of Native Americans and built by the suffering of slaves among our many other sins, but we’re still unable to face those mistakes, learn, recalibrate and move on to become a better nation. Many Americans have been raised with a sanitized sense of our history and know nothing about civics or the political process in either theory or reality. This inability to compare current events to past history and learn from the comparison is a crippling handicap to rational decision making and progress in today’s environment. As an example in recent history, I would point to a cultural shift that emerged with the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, and its continuing impact today…
Reagan’s election marked a major turning point in America. Jimmy Carter’s traditional ideals, familiar to most Americans since Roosevelt, were attacked and toxic new memes such as “greed is good”, “government is bad”, “unions are corrupt”, “education is too expensive”, “privatization is the answer” and others were inserted. Government, long thought to be a flawed but essential protector of “the common man”, became an object of blame. Business, long seen as a predatory force, was painted as an efficient replacement for “broken” government.
These oft-repeated and ubiquitous new memes took root but it’s taken years for them to begin to bear fruit. Greed has been so good that now the richest 20 Americans have more wealth than the entire bottom half of the country combined. Government, starved of the money it needs to perform even its most basic functions, has let our infrastructure decay to the point where it would take over $2 trillion dollars to repair it. Union membership has dropped from around 25% in 1970 to about 10% today, with a predictable effect on wages, job security, and retirement. The idea of productive, full-time labor that can support a family in dignity is now a sad punch line. Single-income families now make up about 37% of our population, down from 60% in 1970.
We are reaping the results of this worship of greed and vilification of government, but our citizenry is impotent to stop it. Why? Because the public school system has been pillaged to the point students are no longer taught civics and the history taught is minimal. This calculated dumbing down of America means no one can look back and see how things were, or more importantly, how things can be changed. Democracy is on life support while propaganda flourishes, sustained by the installed ignorance. Steamrolled by powers of greed, a population suffering from learned helplessness and complacency may now loose what generations before have died for.
If we start fighting back now we could begin to reverse some of the damage over the next 30 years. It will take visionary leaders and common citizens alike to put us back on the path Jimmy Carter was blazing for us. Reagan was no statesman on par with Lincoln or Roosevelt, more a pretty figurehead of the 100-year-old movement for the wealthy to lull us back into accepting Plutocracy.
Please help stop the Ronald Reagan Worship and fight to reverse the dumbing down of America.
Take Care and Make a Great Day!