Not Our Finest Hour

I worry that we are living in an era of a cultural change that does not reflect our best instincts as a nation.   We just, finally, ended an ugly political season.  We heard more about fear than about hope. So many of us seem to regard each other with suspicion. Immigrants are outsiders and are to be feared, not welcomed.   We are not one nation anymore but two. And we seem to have no interest in coming together. This is not a partisan critique, just a very sad fact.

Most of us grew up placing high value on citizen responsibility. Part of that was watching out for each other. Now it seems to be every man for himself. Nowhere is that more evident to me than in the draconian proposed cuts to Medicaid in the new healthcare plan. The proposed changes to Medicaid send a disturbing signal to the poor. The disabled, chronically ill and elderly better see the handwriting, too. . Some of us lose in all three categories. We are talking about hundreds of million of our fellow citizens and, yes, us.

I used to hear references to society’s most vulnerable and see others. Now I look in the mirror. This sick disabled old guy (getting old guy?) living in an era of social Darwinism regards the idea of survival of the fittest with some dread. Pres. George H.W. Bush’s notion of a kinder, gentler nation has been misplaced. I am sure there is much disagreement about various issues among us. I hope we can agree that this is not our finest hour.



12 Responses to Not Our Finest Hour

  1. Christopher March 10, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    We’ve lost our way.

    When did we all decide to be so uncaring and lose compassion? When did people decide to become so mean, and mean-spirited? Almost every post to news stories includes at least one f-bomb, and the word ‘retard’ (or worse) has become the default for voicing displeasure with another’s opinion. I see Facebook exchanges that make me concerned that the next step is outright physical violence. Instead of taking a step back, and a deep breath, people seem to ramp up the agitation and anger. These people who should be leading us are instead very sick cheerleaders of this very damaged society.

    Something needs to break this cycle or it will break us and tear us all apart.

    • richarde m. cohen March 11, 2017 at 11:14 am #

      You are not the only one who worries that physical violence is next. People are really angry and alienated and seem ready to do anything. And those in power egg it on and exploit the raw feelings. I worry that people such as we may fall out of the safety net.

      ‘Hope you arefeeling OK, Christopher.

  2. Christopher March 10, 2017 at 6:28 pm #

    Also you probably shouldn’t “dread” too much, Richard. If I remember correctly, Darwinian evolution is about adaptation… not so much about strength/health or its lack thereof.

    • richarde m. cohen March 11, 2017 at 11:17 am #

      I believe survival of the fittest applies to social norms.

  3. Jane March 11, 2017 at 9:46 am #

    I agree.

  4. Chris March 12, 2017 at 1:47 am #

    I apologize, I guess I missed that in what you wrote. I agree too.

    Thank you, Richard. I’m okay but life has been rough.

  5. Brian L. March 12, 2017 at 5:46 pm #

    Christopher, you asked “when did we become so mean-spirited”? That’s the question that has been driving me nuts. As I try to make sense of this, it seems to me that this political divide seems to coincide with the rise of the 24-hour news channels. it recently dawned on me that although they have very different views of our politics, they have the exact same goal, and it’s not necessarily to inform us. The thing they have in common, the thing they HAVE to have, is ratings. And so they present the news in a way that keeps their viewers coming back for more.

    The problem is, we as the viewers, in our desire to feel like we’re right, gravitate to the news that reinforces our own beliefs. When we all start watching only the news that we agree with, we get the impression that not only are we right, we are so right that anyone who disagrees must be a moron. And here we are…you have this person with whom you’ve been friends for days, weeks or even years. You like this person. You have respect for this person. But then you learn that they don’t agree with you politically, and presto, that person is now too stupid to be your friend.

    Richard, I would be very interested in your opinion as a journalist on this. Is there any merit to this hypothesis. If so, is there any way forward?

    • Richard Cohen March 14, 2017 at 10:13 am #

      I believe you are right. The 24 hour news cycle and cable news simplify and overplay issues. The news shark has to be fed. Perspective is missing. News with a political identity runs counter to all journalism stands for. This is a bad time for our nation, and Trump has learned to exploit it. I am afraid this is structural change and not about to go away.

  6. Yvonne March 12, 2017 at 5:54 pm #

    This healthcare issue hopefully will help people see that no matter what is said, money will rule. The people pushing this wagon don’t care about those who cannot afford the cost of basic healthcare. The ACA had many problems but so did Social Security, Medicare when it was first introduced. They still have major issues with fraud but they do more good than harm. I don’t think people should be forced to buy healthcare. They should experience having a chronic illness with no insurance and have to pay the bill since they “opted out”. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen so the only way to keep cost down is mandated coverage as insurance companies are for profit so they cannot just have the sick people buy insurance. Just like automobile insurance I may pay for years and never have an accident. Healthcare for everybody is going to be a tough road to navigate. These people in Washington should not be the drivers as they have no clue what the map looks like.

    • Yvonne March 12, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

      You are absolutely right Brian. After this election I realized all the polls, opinions and visceral hate on both sides were geared to one audience, their viewers. That’s not what news is supposed to be. News should be about sharing information without bias. These people aren’t journalist. They are hired hands for the network to increase viewership by any means necessary. Where’s Walter Cronkite when we need him?

      • Richard Cohen March 14, 2017 at 10:16 am #

        I was lucky enough to know and work with Walter. He stood for all that is missing today. He scared me when I was young because he was unyielding and tough.

  7. Dale March 13, 2017 at 1:19 am #

    I was just thinking about him the other day. He would donate a sail on his sailboat each year for the Martha’s Vineyard Impossible Dreams auction. That auction supported social services on the island, Art Buchwald was the Emcee for years. I always wanted that boat ride just to spend even 5 minutes with the man. Watched Liberty’s Kids on PBS in fact just because he was the narrator. That was what I grew up thinking was a real news reporter.