America’s Paralysis


Bob Herbert takes all Americans to task in his column in today’s Washington Post:

Americans have tended to watch with a remarkable (I think frightening) degree of passivity as crises of all sorts have gripped the country and sent millions of lives into tailspins. Where people once might have deluged their elected representatives with complaints, joined unions, resisted mass firings, confronted their employers with serious demands, marched for social justice and created brand new civic organizations to fight for the things they believed in, the tendency now is to assume that there is little or nothing ordinary individuals can do about the conditions that plague them.

This is so wrong. It is the kind of thinking that would have stopped the civil rights movement in its tracks, that would have kept women in the kitchen or the steno pool, that would have prevented labor unions from forcing open the doors that led to the creation of a vast middle class.

This passivity and sense of helplessness most likely stems from the refusal of so many Americans over the past few decades to acknowledge any sense of personal responsibility for the policies and choices that have led the country into such a dismal state of affairs, and to turn their backs on any real obligation to help others who were struggling.

Those chickens have come home to roost. Being an American has become a spectator sport. Most Americans watch the news the way you’d watch a ballgame, or a long-running television series, believing that they have no more control over important real-life events than a viewer would have over a coach’s strategy or a script for “Law & Order.”

Dope dope dope!

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  1. griffn

    This strikes me as pretty anecdotal. The same Americans that Herbert is scolding for not being involved just elected Barack Obama-- no small feat. We very well may be less involved in civic causes but Herbert doesn't provide any evidence for it. Just listing a bunch of current problems and then longing for the "good old days" seems like kind of a lazy argument to me.

  2. tigger500

    Fair point.

    Gotta tell you though, in my line of work, this rings true.

    That said, to be fair, I suspect that we aren't propoerly motivating people to care the way we used to.


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