What’s bothering America? Understanding the underlying causes doesn’t require degrees in political science, psychology or business administration. But let’s enumerate just 16 reasons to remind us why we’re feeling the “troubles.”
1. We’ve been living with the relentless anxiety of a viral pandemic, unprecedented hospitalizations, deaths and mixed messages about how to deal with it as epidemiologists try to figure out the life cycles and transformations of COVID-19.
2. We are experiencing an extraordinary and unsettling period of zero-sum political partisanship, and even splits within parties. Moderate Democrats are impatient with woke lefties. Moderate Republicans are impatient with those clinging to former president Trump. Democrats are impatient with Republicans for doing everything they can to prevent them from accomplishing anything and then blaming them for doing nothing. Republicans are impatient with the Biden administration for not getting serious enough about inflation.
3. Pandemic induced supply-chain problems have made living costs skyrocket.
4. Demand and short supply have driven up housing costs.
5. Energy prices are up for homes, autos and electricity.
6. The cost of automobiles, if you can get one, have skyrocketed.
7. Weather patterns are driving up insurance rates.
8. Wages and salaries are up but they can’t keep up with inflation.
9. Workplace changes are reconfiguring lifestyles and who knows how careers will be affected.
10. These troubles have created an unusual number of protests and rebellions ranging from resistance to mask mandates and other COVID restrictions, to freedom convoys shutting down automobile plants, to Black Lives Matter protests, to abortion-related issues, to exasperations over social media ethics.
11. Income disparity has increased during the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal reports that “more than 70% of the increase in household wealth went to the top 20% of income earners. About a third went to the top 1%.”
12. Immigration concerns persist with nationalistic fears over its impact on American society. For some it’s all about “The Great Replacement.”
13. Then there’s a troubling infatuation among a few Americans with strongmen and autocracies.
14. Loose talk is leaking in the circuits of social media over civil war in the union.
15. Concerns mount over climate change and whether we can overcome, over time, its consequences.
16. And if all these troubles weren’t enough, a land war in Europe is possible and would likely make most of the above issues worse.
These issues burden and tear at the fabric of our society and our democratic institutions. There’s a sense that we as Americans are losing the cohesiveness that has been such an historic hallmark of the American experience.
A greater threat to our nation, I believe, is when our citizens get so mired with these troubles that they become indifferent to coalescing around solutions.
President Roosevelt was able to pull a relatively indifferent nation into engagement against Nazism by convincing Americans that a European Nazi empire was a real threat to our democratic ideals and America’s national security. Pearl Harbor turbocharged that argument.
An encouraging development has manifested itself around the Ukrainian crisis as strong bipartisan support has emerged for the current administration’s work in standing up to Vladimir Putin and in coalescing our western allies in a unified stance against Russia’s provocations. Perhaps the bipartisan amity over this national security issue will spill over into other cooperative engagements that will rebuild trust in our country’s leadership and inspire people to coalesce around solutions rather than political vitriol.
Our political and community leadership must take seriously this extraordinary set of circumstances bothering Americans across political affiliations, across so-called red states and blue states and from baby boomers to generation “Z”. We’ve no time or patience for political gamesmanship or gotcha politics.
We need serious leadership we can trust to help us navigate our way through the shoals threatening our troubled nation. We need the lift of hope to bind us together as a nation and to realize the remarkable gratification that comes with facing our challenges as a unified union.
Bill Sims is a Hillsboro resident, retired president of the Denver Council on Foreign Relations, an author and runs a small farm in Berrysville with his wife. He is a former educator, executive and foundation president.