While a portion of the nation recently celebrated a day of freedom and a beginning of progress (Juneteenth), the rest of the nation has a need for a day to mourn lost freedom and progress.
Looking back, the decades after World War II will be remembered as the time America precipitously cast aside its physical, social, cultural, economic, political and legal moorings.
The healthy behavior of Americans has declined steadily. Our people sat idly by while cigarettes laid countless innocent citizens to rest due to lung cancer. We watched our cities get overrun with drugs smuggled in from south of the border. We did little to recognize, roll-back or stop the opioid crisis within our health care system. We have encouraged and blithely participated in unhealthy eating habits, sedentary living and vaping. We have performed below the level of other industrialized nations in infant and maternal mortality rates. We twiddled our thumbs at the outset of and throughout a decimating national pandemic.
We have embraced all manner of personal freedom addictions as normal: social media, pornography, drug and alcohol, online shopping and debt financing, to name just a few.
We have justified and promoted a cavalier attitude toward marriage, a precipitous decline in childbirth and an outpouring of teenage pregnancy. We have demonstrated a flippant acceptance of divorce and callous disregard for fatherhood and the orphans of divorce.
We have seen decades of declining school test scores and grade inflation, school bullying, withdrawal of parents from parent/teacher interactions and supervision of homework, burgeoning college debt coupled with an inability of students to finish college, and the normalization of active shooter events in the classroom.
We have presided over a decline in religious freedom and an increase in revelations of ecclesiastic pedophilia across a wide range of denominations.
We watched passively as employers outsourced jobs overseas and developed an unhealthy balance of trade. We watched with indifference the decline of organized labor and the rise of on-the-job exploitation of the workforce. We embraced usurious interest rates on consumer debt, a return to robber baron-style corporate monopoly in virtually all major industries, conversion from a credit-only economy to a debit-only economy, and skyrocketing city, state, and national debt financing.
We sat motionless as our infrastructure crumbled, bankruptcies exploded, and the wealth gap and poverty indicators soared. We have witnessed an epidemic of fraud and dishonest business advertising in every sector of the economy.
We took off our corrective lenses while Congress turned into an aristocracy, the presidency into an autocracy, and the Supreme Court into an oligarchy. We disputed the integrity of state election results and the honesty of thousands of state election workers, and attempted an insurrection and assassination in the halls of Congress. We threw away reason and non-partisan ship and married ourselves to conspiracy theories, populist demagoguery, the disappearance of newspapers, far right and far left sedition, and a resurgence of overt racism.
We have seen a long-running decline of trust in government and political parties, low election turnouts especially in local elections, withdrawal from fraternal and charity organization affiliation and participation, and withdrawal from church attendance.
After the Vietnam imbroglio, we forgot how to register our concerns about American militarism and followed both Democrat and Republican presidents into dozens of unnecessary military campaigns abroad without a peep of resistance.
In our law enforcement and justice worlds, we have accepted police murders, rampant Hollywood sexual assault, sexual harassment in workplaces, and rape in the military. We have witnessed the failure of corrections facilities to correct behavior, justice systems to find truth and provide justice, and an increase in all manner of violent crime.
We have adopted a slap-on-the-wrist approach to white collar crime, as demonstrated by the lack of punishment of corporate felons responsible for the 2008 Great Recession.
And yet every Fourth of July, we party with puffed out chests thinking we are the most patriotic and successful generation of people ever to live on planet earth.
— Robert Kimball Shinkoskey is a public health worker and historian of democracy.
This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: My Take: America needs a National Day of Mourning