We’ve heard it a lot from younger people in recent years. We hear that America is not what it used to be – what they usually mean is that it’s not the same in terms of economic opportunity. For example, while we immigrants could once buy a house, native born Americans, even college graduates, now see it as a pipe dream.
In this regard, I would not agree. Anyone – as long as they are healthy – can, if they want to, create, through hard work, their own small or large opportunities. This negative attitude leads nowhere.
However, there is a difference between now and before – to a surprisingly large degree – but it is where we didn’t expect it: It exists in the principles and values that created and characterized America.
I’m referring to a Wall Street Journal poll from earlier this week that is truly stunning and different than what we would expect.
For example, one of the most striking, yet disturbing, figures is that only 38% of Americans consider patriotism to be “very important,” down from 70% in 1998 – a huge difference.
Another equally striking fact is that only 39% view religion as “very important” in their lives, compared to 62% in 1998. Also a huge difference.
What has increased as “very important” in Americans’ lives is money, from 31% in 1998 to 43% now.
But again, these percentages are lower than the general picture one might have thought of the country’s residents.
What do these figures mean?
They mainly mean that both words and actions have consequences. That deep social and political polarisation, wars without clear objectives and results, violence, successive crises and lack of confidence in the economy, scandal after scandal in the various churches – the worst of which were in the Catholic Church – are leading people to cynicism, selfishness, and indifference.
Hence the fall in the index of principles and values.
Does this matter for the future of the country? Very much so. And it is to the detriment of all: rich, poor, white, black, immigrant and native.
All of us who, from individuals, become the whole.