God Bless America

“America:  Love it or leave it.”

“America:  Change it or lose it.”

–competing bumper stickers in the ‘60’s and 70’s

 

Not that this will come as a surprise, but a new July 4th Gallup poll has effectively plumbed the depths of polarization into which our nation has fallen.

The simple question:  How proud are you to be an American?

Gallup asks the same question every year.  For the first time the number of Americans who say they are extremely proud to be an American dropped below 50%, settling in at a tepid, middle of the road 47%.

But it also won’t surprise you that when you look at the results by political party no one is meeting in the middle.

On the Republican side, 74% say they are extremely proud to be an American.

On the Democratic side, only 32% feel the same.

Gallup’s Chief Editor Frank Newport says he’s not surprised, and that our political polarization makes even simple questions difficult to answer due to feelings and opinions that have little to do with the issue under consideration.

Or, as Newport says, “they filter all questions through their partisanship, and in today’s environment they’re filtering it through their views of Donald Trump.”  Whether the question is about Trump or not.

But it’s worth noting, Newport added, that even during the Obama administration Republicans were more likely than Democrats to describe themselves as extremely proud to be an American.

I’m not sure this means that Democrats don’t love America, but Republicans do.   That’s the kind of oversimplification that has helped push us all to our political fringe of choice, leaving nearly empty that moderate hole in the middle in which, believe it or not, more than half of us used to live in the quaint days before politically-slanted cable news channels and AM talk radio.

It’s all reflective of the bumper-sticker debates of the 60’s and 70’s.  Love America or leave it, conservatives shouted from their bumpers—a viewpoint liberals considered stupidly simplistic and very head-in-the-sand.

(The liberals were wrong on that, by the way.   You can love America and still see things that need changing.  That’s one reason why we have presidential elections every four years.)

Meanwhile, liberal bumpers shouted back that unless America makes some big changes we would soon be in big trouble—which conservatives considered criminally unpatriotic and naively dangerous.

(The conservatives were wrong on that, by the way.  You can love America and still see things that need changing.  That’s one reason why we have presidential elections every four years.)

So I understand why today’s Democrats say they’re not very proud of America’s current incarnation, given their dislike of nearly everything our president does and says—but I still think they’re wrong.  Not liking the current president is no reason to lose pride in being American.

Personally, I’m meh on Mr. Trump.  Not much of a role model for kids, but he has the economy moving.  He’s not afraid to shake things up, and there’s no denying Washington needed some shaking.  He thrives on controversy, but it’s not like that’s a surprise.  America knew what it was getting when he was elected.

But no matter who is president, I’ll remain a big fan of America.  Sure, at the moment we all pretty much hate anyone who doesn’t think, act, or vote like we do, but the pendulum will swing away from the edges and back to the center eventually.

At least I hope so, because right now our unwillingness to seek common ground on anything other than running up the national debt is the kind of problem that can bring nations down to rubble.

Which is why I called this column “God bless America.”  That was a request.  If You’re listening up there, we could sure use the help.  Maybe You could start by making everyone go away whose livelihood depends on making other people angry.

Wait, what’s that?  You’re leaving it all up to us to fix?  Free will and making smart choices, huh?

Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of, but You can’t blame me for asking.  I understand.  Wars, even the ones we fight among ourselves, are our fault, not Yours.

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