"...But after listening to the American people I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can't fix what's wrong with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy. I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might. 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.
The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next 5 years will be worse than the past 5 years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world. As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning."
it is my contention that we have too much. we are attached to too many 'things'- that ubiquitous word that can mean so many 'things.' as a country, we are attached to the 'american dream' and it is costing us our democracy. we are attached to the notion of manifest destiny and 'our way' of looking at the world- and it has cost us allies. we are attached to our big houses and cars and clothes and vacations. we are attached to living like royalty- on a middle class budget and it is costing us our children and grandchildren. we have lost our ability to reason- and it is costing us our planet.
there's a reason that one third of americans abuse alcohol. there's a reason that we are building walls where once we wanted to 'tear them down.' there's a reason that we don't question authority and we take everything at face value. there's a reason that we long for 'the good ole days' and we want to regress rather than progress- it's called fear. we as a country are afraid of losing our things. we are afraid of losing 'our way of life' and therefore we want to keep everyone else out. we are afraid of not being able to buy things cheaply to maintain the illusion of wealth- therefore we allow sweat shops.
but none of this makes us feel good about ourselves. the depression, the anxiety, the low self esteem comes from this attachment to our image. and yet, we continue the cycle. carter gave his 'malaise' speech in 1979 and here we are. so- what are we going to do about it?
seems simple to me- start simplifying our lives. that means unloading some of our attachments. what are we willing to sacrifice and give up to save our sanity? our family? our country? our planet? are we willing to engage in meaningful discourse and question the status quo? are we willing to listen and debate and compromise with our fellow americans? with the rest of the world? can we be honest and learn how to communicate? are we willing to reevaluate what is really important? do we have what it takes to face tough times ahead? will it be too late to save our planet?
crossposted at the sirens chronicles