1) Education. Democracy requires an educated citizenry to function. Those of you who aren’t familiar with Mussolini’s rise to power in the 1920’s or Hitler’s rise in the 1930’s or the fact that Trump’s Big Lie had a predecessor, are uneducated. So you are one of the ways we got here.
But it’s not all your fault. The US educational system hasn’t taught history or civics well for decades. As a result, most US citizens could not pass the US citizenship test on a bet. (Don’t believe me? Take the test here.)
2. Politicians. They exist, theoretically, to represent their constituency. In the process they quickly learn to lie, obfuscate, mislead, and seek, not a better country, but increased personal power. As a result, most voters distrust them. Today, only around 20% of the country trusts Congress.
3. Money. Since the Citizen’s United ruling by the Supreme Court, corporate and secret money has flooded elections, leaving the individual voter stranded. It takes millions to get elected to anything on a national or even state level now. So, the fundamental idea of democracy – that anyone can be elected and every vote matters – is gone.
4. Shared sacrifice. The last time this country shared sacrifice was in WWII – when items from food to gas were rationed in deference to military. The citizens of this country haven’t sacrificed for a shared goal since then, leading to the “me first” culture.
5. The Draft or national service. When you’re forced to work closely with “others” – people of different races, beliefs, and backgrounds – you quickly see the folly of racism, religious bigotry, and class. You learn to value the team and teammates, regardless of background, because that’s the only way you survive or win.
4. Capitalism. A brilliant concept initially, it is now out of control. Increasing shareholder value trumps every other goal. Greed, once abhorred, is now almost revered. Teddy Roosevelt forbad monopolies because they killed jobs and innovation; today’s leaders wink at them.
5. News/media. Where news once prided itself on unbiased reporting of facts, it now focuses on consumers’ adrenal glands. “If it bleeds, it leads” has replaced “all the news thats fit to print”.
7. Racism. It is the original sin of this country. It was reduced by the Civil War and forced into hiding by Martin Luther King. But it still decides who rides the bus.
8. Data. Where business, politics etc, were once “relationship driven”, they are now “data-driven”. You see that with every phone call to a doctor’s office, every email from a politician, every fast food purchase, every aspect of Amazon, every bank, every robot that tells you how important you are. It’s all about the data, dummy. People – you and I – don’t matter.
There are more ways of course, but these are good examples.
How do they affect us? They’ve separated us from each other. They’ve decimated the shared morals that were the foundation of our culture: Truth is now fiction, honesty is for suckers, integrity for losers.
Which has led to fear and helplessness in much of the population. Which historically has led people to seek out “strong men” as leaders, people like Mussolini, Hitler.
Which is where we started…or is it where we are headed?