If you want to point to a single thing that indicates the erosion of American greatness, you need look no further than the fact that there is actually an annual poll that ranks the “Most Hated” people in America. Exactly when did we as a country give up on the better angels of our nature in order to wallow in the muck and drivel of our basest instincts? Seriously, what kind of mind says, “Oh hey, wouldn’t it be great if we could annually remind people of ‘famous’ people they don’t like?” Shouldn’t the people we don’t care for simply be set aside so we can move on to something more important? What exactly is gained by annually indicating our disdain for OJ Simpson or Paris Hilton or Caylee Anthony – or anyone else for that matter?
There was a time when Americans came together to make astonishing things happen: the founding of our country, fighting to preserve the Union and abolish slavery, mobilizing the government and private sector together to find our way out of the Great Depression, the struggle to make the Civil Rights amendment a reality, sending human beings to the moon. Have we now decided to limit ourselves to the bread and circuses of a dwindling greatness?
It has become a new sport to pass judgment. All of us are guilty of indulging in self-righteousness from time to time, but it seems to have become a distinct and ugly primary characteristic of our culture. We revel in throwing the figurative first stone. If there is someone who can be “taken down a peg”, then the public drools and slathers for retribution of some kind. It’s as if we have become the mob in Revolution-era France clamoring for the guillotine, or the Roman masses watching the games in the Colloseum. We demand our version of blood sacrifice.
It makes me wonder why anyone would actually desire to run for President or high political office. Whose life could ever stand up to the microscopic scrutiny? Mine surely would not. Are we so cynical and simple-minded that we cannot accept the great goodness possible in our leaders along with their shortcomings? Are the successes of Abraham Lincoln diminished because he was a manic depressive who had ambiguous views on the abolition of slavery? Is the tireless energy of FDR and his efforts through the Depression and World War 2 soiled irreparably because of the affairs he had outside his marriage? Is JFKs ability to inspire the nation to action forever sullied by his womanizing? These were complex, brilliant, inspiring human beings with all the powers and weaknesses inherent in being a part of humanity.
We were once a great nation because, despite our differences, we found ways to come together. And often, it meant putting down our hatchets and overlooking the shortcomings in others. It was never easy, it was certainly never perfect, but it always resulted in greatness. I am not ready to surrender to mediocrity. And I refuse to take the easy road and tear down when building up can result in so much more.