Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Ann McFeatters: How America has changed

Ann McFeatters: How America has changed

  • Updated
  • 68

Politicians like to say there is more that unites us than divides us.

That may be true, but not necessarily in a good way.

Or maybe the bigger truth is that there are two countries in the U.S. One’s motto is “Every man for himself.” The other’s: “Leave no man behind.”

We may now live in the confusing, dyspeptic world of both.

We have changed.

We are less naive, but more selfish. We used to think that sending our American soldiers to foreign lands could resolve centuries of feuding and inhumane treatment of one people by another, often because of religious differences. Now, in exchange for the blood, sweat and tears of our young men and women, we demand money or oil or some form of payment.

We used to be admired for friendliness and acceptance of strangers. Fewer of us welcome the downtrodden, displaced and disheartened to our shores. Officially, if you don’t have money, this country does not want you.

We are less loyal. We reject old allies because they hold mirrors to our faces; we scorn them as useless. We form hateful alliances with demagogues and dictators who flatter, intimidate and entice us with access to their markets or resources.

We are less reliable. Our word is no longer our bond. We don’t automatically have each other’s back. The rest of the world does not know what we stand for. The rule of law? Facts? Jailing opponents? Trying to steal elections? Some see us as pitiable and vulnerable to decay from within. In some places we are mocked. We invite the best and the brightest to our universities and then deport them.

Our leaders are hypocritical. They refuse to honor the Constitution, in one case refusing to consider a legitimate nominee for the Supreme Court, and then ramming through another nominee without due process. Hypocrisy is seen as expedient and unavoidable, not reprehensible.

We used to believe we could export democracy. Now we are not even sure what democracy is. The candidate with the most votes does not always win. Our courts do not always protect the concept of one person, one vote, especially if that person is old, of a different color, of a different belief system, of a different ancestry, of a different political persuasion or someone in a pandemic who mails in her ballot.

We used to be a religious country. Now we are not. We worship status and celebrity. Many of us follow cults or meet weekly to sing and feel good but often do not lead moral lives. Many passionately support life for an unborn fetus but also believe the state has a right to take life, that health care can be rationed, that felons may have guns, that separating children from parents is acceptable or that letting killer viruses run rampant is not objectionable.

We have less respect for each other. Thousands of us refuse to wear masks because we don’t care that we might inadvertently make someone sick enough to die or spend weeks on a ventilator or carry the virus home to a vulnerable relative. Freedom’s just another word for letting someone else lose everything.

We think uncouth behavior is funny and tolerable. We shrug our shoulders in indifference to vulgarity. Once we tried to root out corruption. Now we look away.

Mendacity is OK. We punish children for lying but many of us expect adults to prevaricate without consequence. We don’t yearn for truth.

We subscribe to ridiculous conspiracy theories because we have nothing to rely on, no inner core and no common sense voice whispering, “This is nonsense.” We have given up on logic.

Ignorance does not disturb us. Fewer of us respect learning. We do not try to find out what is going on in our world. We isolate ourselves and seem to relish how provincial we have become.

We do not trust anything, Certainly not institutions such as government, churches, sports, big business, the postal service or even neighborhood associations.

We are neither as can-do nor as competent as we were. We went to the moon because we could. We started a Peace Corps because we could. We twice saved the world. Our computers revolutionized everything. We vowed to end poverty. It was hard. We gave up. We lost our jobs because other workers did them cheaper. We vowed to end racism. It was hard We got frustrated, and too many said it couldn’t be done.

We present ourselves to much of the rest of the world as bigoted and soulless.

This country is not the same as it was four years ago.

History will decide if that’s partly good or all bad.

At least, a lot of us voted.


Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News