It’s a Grand Old Flag

I do not think I come from unique circumstances, nor that I am exceptionally gifted an observer, but I continue to be astonished at the number of people I know who do not understand what it is that President Trump is doing or how it can happen here. The common explanation for this is that Some People have been living in a bubble, but that’s not entirely correct. There is indeed proximity bias, but there have also been perversions of the available data which are only visible if you read the footnotes. The unemployment rate is the best example: it’s low — only if neither those people who are no longer looking for work, nor those who are imprisoned and have no choice about the work they do, are counted. Makes things look rosy, yes?

The rosiness is not evenly distributed.

Jimmy Carter hit the nail directly on the head with his “Crisis of Confidence” malaise speech: there’s a deficit of meaning.

I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our Nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else—public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.

Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past.

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

Donald Trump (or Steve Bannon) provided an easy answer, one which is very appealing to a lot of people. It seems to solve so much.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance [emphasis mine] to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.

When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

The Bible tells us, “how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

The world was not an easy place before Trump, except for a lot of Americans. It was not a safe place, except for a lot of Americans. Obama was not Flash Gordon, nor was Bush, nor Clinton, nor Bush, nor Reagan, nor Carter, nor Ford, nor Nixon, nor Johnson, nor Kennedy, nor Eisenhower, nor Truman.

This particular problem has been brewing for some time, and the solution is not in who is President.