They won’t let us geezers watch cable news on the TVs at the gym anymore. Too many fights are breaking out.
In full disclosure, I am a Baby Boomer who has had little motive to engage in our political process for over 40 years. I don’t think I’m unique in any way from my cohort. To many Millennials, our generation has gorged on the good fortune and prosperity influenced greatly by the timing of our birth and the geopolitical dominance of the US for the past 60 years.
In 1970, between April 22nd (Kent State shootings) and May 4th (Earth Day) I became an unlikely activist, but my friends and I quickly grew bored when we discovered how much work was involved. Decades later, after a career spent working in corporations and leading private businesses, my closest involvement with our government has been my annual tax return and the occasional Election Day appearance. Economically conservative and socially liberal, I have supported candidates from both parties who were pragmatic and willing to compromise for the greater good.
As a business executive, I often complained about excessive regulation and taxes. Still, I respected the political processes to produce a reasonably fair distribution of responsibilities for businesses and individuals to contribute to the general welfare of our society. Why not? Whether led by Democrats or Republicans, since the 1950s, the United States, by any measure, was the most successful nation on the planet.
Similarly, I saw the curve of social justice bending slowly, but steadily in a direction of inclusion and tolerance. My wife and I parented our three children secure in our sense that, in the end, this is America. Everything would work out for them as it had for us. Four major recessions caused us to worry about their economic opportunities, but we had given them good educations and the tools to find fulfilling work. We trusted that they and our grandchildren would inhabit a continually more prosperous, safe, and successful country.
This happy picture of complacency has been under attack for years. It started with the bitter mid-term election cycle of 1994 and since then, the gridlock and discord in Washington has accelerated each year. No doubt, technology has served as our mirror in the monkey house. First 24-hour cable news and then the Internet amplified and fed on scandal, dysfunction and outrage. The advent of social media networks tugged at us to choose sides. With the 2016 election, a perfect storm of money, media, entertainment culture, and narcissism reached a screeching crescendo and neither party was able to stop it.
As David Brooks recently wrote, we now have three crises: the crisis of opportunity, the crisis of solidarity, and the crisis of authority. Our elected leaders cannot begin to address the root causes of these crises when the very natures of “truth” and “facts” are being attacked as something malleable and subjective and our judicial system is targeted for political points.
In the past months, I’ve seen friendships shattered, reasonable people turned apoplectic, and my own family electrified with the fear that the institutions we rely on for a civil society are under attack. In this environment, I no longer believe our political parties can get beyond the polarizing issues of abortion, guns, and immigration to deal with the economy, education, infrastructure, the environment and our common defense.
I can no longer excuse my own inaction. The country and people I love are in danger of losing their future to hopeless despair. Their political leaders are punished for pursuing shared solutions or for even attempting an earnest discussion with those who harbor other beliefs or approaches. Cloistered in endlessly gerrymandered districts, our representatives play to the extremes. Like millions of other “quiet Americans”, I am angry at the childishness and petty tit-for-tat that consume both of our major political parties and prevent them from constructively addressing our nation’s problems and opportunities.
Recently, I was introduced to the Serve America Movement through mutual friends. I am proud to add my voice and support as a Founder. Through SAM, it is my hope that millions of Americans of all means, ages and ethnicities can add their own voices so that the most strident and extreme can no longer dominate our discourse.
Together we can alter the future of our democracy and restore a balance that emphasizes and celebrates our many shared interests rather than our few disputes.
The character of our nation has always been forged from the DNA of immigrants and pioneers. We have always shared a common humanity and decency born of independence and interdependence. Our founding documents still inspire us to ideals of liberty, equality and justice but those ideals must be built on a foundation of trust.
SAM provides a renewed forum in which ideas and solutions can be honestly debated in an environment of common trust. A safe place where fear of reprisals and retribution from political extremists will not destroy common sense approaches to our problems.
So, Boomers, wake up! Join us in our common effort to dial down the sensationalism and discord that destroy any hint of harmony. Fighting will always sell more ads than civil debate, but in the end, we must have faith that the American people are smart enough to vote for results over rhetoric.
I might not be able to watch cable news in the gym anymore, but SAM gives me hope. With civil dialog, mutual respect, and common love of country, we can rebuild our trust and our bonds as an American people. With trust, we can engage in truly constructive conflict. With constructive conflict, we can produce shared commitments to permanent solutions that will secure a strong, vital, and fair America for our children and our children’s children.
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SAM is building a new political party for a new majority. Our goal is to break the self-interested stranglehold of the two entrenched parties and give back power and voice over our future, and our country, to the people.
We can’t do it without you.