Believe in Us. Work for Us.
Published February 24, 2022
By Tom Campbell
For more than 20 years the Gallup organization has polled Americans on 29 aspects of life, asking if respondents are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy. The survey focuses on quality of life, the system of government and how it works, and the influence of organized religion. The most recent results, published earlier this month, might not surprise you.
In 2020, before the pandemic began, 48 percent reported they were satisfied. That number dropped to 41 percent in 2021, but the latest poll showed only 38 percent were satisfied, the lowest in the history of the survey. In 16 areas measured consistently over the two decades only 35 percent reported happiness. These aspects include policies regarding abortion, crime reduction, the economy and the quality of education.
The data is reinforced by a December Marist College poll, where only 49 percent were optimistic about how things were going in the world, the first year below the 50 percent mark since 2009.
The pandemic has us in a bad place. A Monmouth University poll recently found 28 percent believe COVID will never be under control. 60 percent say it will take a year, if ever. Add to that the chaos, partisan politics, anger, hate, distrust and divisiveness and you can see why there’s more “stinkin’ thinkin’” now than most can ever remember.
We can agree that we have problems. We want to know how to fix them. The cure is not going to come from a politician, some government program, a miraculous medical cure (even if we can get enough to take it) or the end to inflation.
NY Times columnist David Brooks gives us some direction. He writes:
“While the Constitution guarded against abuses of power, the founders recognized that a much more important set of civic practices (our emphasis) would mold people to be capable of being self-governing citizens: Churches were meant to teach virtue; leaders were to receive classical education, so they might understand human virtue and vice and the fragility of democracy; everyday citizens were to lead their lives as yeoman farmers so they might learn to live simply and work hard; civic associations and local government were to instill the habits of public service; patriotic rituals were observed to instill shared love of country; newspapers and magazines were there (more in theory than in fact) to create a well-informed citizenry; etiquette rules and democratic manners were adopted to encourage social equality and mutual respect.”
A farmer knows that to get a good harvest you can’t just randomly scatter seeds. They must till the soil, plant the seeds, water and fertilize the plants and nurture the crop. It’s work. And we’ve stopped doing the work that united us and made us strong.
We learned from our civics lessons what it takes to be a good citizen. When I was younger most everyone I knew belonged to a civic club, volunteer or charitable organization. The once strong civic clubs, fraternal groups, chambers and volunteer organizations have declined and many, if they still exist, are running on fumes. We are so narcissistic that we no longer feel the need to join and participate in civic organizations, where kindred souls gather for fellowship and conduct projects for the betterment of our communities. We also no longer participate in faith-based gatherings. Since the 1960s attendance and membership in churches has declined. It is in our churches, synagogues and yes, mosques, that we are instructed and inspired to be better than we are.
And collectively these activities help instill in us a belief in the goodness of people and our neighbors. It’s not just that we no longer really teach civics in our schools, we’ve forgotten to practice those things that promote good citizenship.
In his first inaugural address Lincoln called upon the “better angels” of our nature, saying he hoped people would do what was right and best for our nation and follow the example of those who came before, by answering the call to action. We were on the verge of war when he made these remarks. We may not be in similar waters today but the call to action is just as urgent.
The bottom line is that to restore America we must first believe in us, then work for us. Not just for our team, our party, race or group, but for all of us. Are you ready to roll up your sleeve and do the work?