A decade of loss: What slipped away in America in the 2010s

  

Category:  Op/Ed

Via:  john-russell  •  7 months ago  •  23 comments

A decade of loss: What slipped away in America in the 2010s
The rising tide of ugliness, cruelty and despair is all around us, tugging at our national spirit. Some want us to act as though it has been offset by a rising stock market and low unemployment rate or profits for Amazon and Facebook or a million new streaming TV shows, but it hasn’t. They are parallel realities. Our soul as a country matters as much if not more than our vital signs.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



The rising darkness in American’s political attitudes have also manifested as a response to the gig economy, and the increasing impossibility of the old dreams of homeownership and family. The renter economy, driven by the relentless McKinsey philosophy of crushing out benefits, shaving down the quality of life for both producers and consumers, and a relentless use of government to command the heights of economic power by using lobbying, regulatory capture or influence at the highest levels is another pain point from this decade.


The private sector jobs numbers may look good under this president, as they were under the last one.

Still, outside Silicon Valley and Wall Street, the economy is still a struggle for many; gig economy jobs don’t buy houses, rebuild savings, or make having a family affordable.

Rising costs on essentials like health care, crushing student loan debt (with a terrible return on investment for most), and the substitution of entertainment for investment has left Americans, particularly the rising generation of millennials, feeling lost and bitter.

History‘s greatest trick is that our innate human bias toward normalcy always lures us into complacency. You wake up in the morning and the coffee still tastes largely the same, the water runs, the lights come on. It feels almost ordinary. You walk the dogs, check the news, and while on some rare days it’s a 9/11, even the biggest moments in history are hard to see up close.

The idea of change coming in sharp, traumatic, explosive moments is largely an illusion. The signs are always there before the moments that make the history books and the “where were you when?” times.

The water comes to a boil slowly and the frog, or in America’s case 330 million frogs, don’t notice until it’s too late. And no, this is not an allusion to climate change.

So we probably won’t be able to identify exactly when it happened, but sometime in this last decade, we lost the thread. Something actually broke. We fumbled away our continuity, our resilience, the uniquely American proposition that we’re bending the arc of history the right direction. We stopped believing in our almost magical national felicity for getting out of our own way and finally, stubbornly, doing the right thing.

The 2010s didn’t have a 9/11 moment. They didn’t have a Nixon resignation moment (all bets are off for the 2020s on that one, though). There was no hot global conflagration, no assassination attempt on a president, no Pearl Harbor, no Hurricane Katrina or Andrew.

Instead, we had a grinding series of more picayune, more insidious changes. Bit by bit, technology changed the culture. Bit by bit, the culture changed us.

As a result, this passing decade was marked by something darker, more divisive, more dangerous and ultimately more consequential. It was a time where all the small threads wove together into a kind of messy whole, and where a new era of bitterness and spite tore us apart in ways as surely as the 1960s cultural moment did.

Many of these were smaller changes. And as a nation, they, taken together, made us collectively smaller.

You may know that I don’t like Donald Trump very much. I’m known as one of the loudest, most brash members of the #NeverTrump brigade.

But even I don’t blame him for what America has become. Trump is part cause and part symptom of this moment in which we find ourselves, both a reason and a symbol of what we’ve lost under our very noses.

The rising tide of ugliness, cruelty and despair is all around us, tugging at our national spirit. Some want us to act as though it has been offset by a rising stock market and low unemployment rate or profits for Amazon and Facebook or a million new streaming TV shows, but it hasn’t. They are parallel realities. Our soul as a country matters as much if not more than our vital signs.

How did it happen?

Perhaps it was the rise of self-reinforcing social media and press silos where everyone is told even their most exotic view is the only view, and where sacrifice, community and dignity are replaced by clicks, likes and retweets. That certainly didn’t help. We’re selfie-filtered into unrecognizable oblivion.

Perhaps it was the slow creep of reality television into every living room, on every screen, on every device that led us here. After all, reality TV in this decade gave us both the rise of the Kardashians and the election of Trump, which count as signs of the end times by any standard.

Or perhaps it was the increasingly oppositional-defiant disorder politics both sides of the political spectrum embraced, scorning the old, slow era of give-a-little, get-a-little bipartisanship where no one on either edge came away happy but the system stumbled along in its way.

No one wants to go have a beer after a legislative floor fight these days in Washington; they’re racing to send out fundraising emails full of recriminations and describing their political opponents as enemies of America.

It may span outside the boundaries of this decade by a moment, but the echoes of the 2008-09 market collapse still reverberate in a grim way. In a meaningful sense, the bailouts from that crisis ensured the rise of a Trump, either on the left or right, and even a steady decade of Fed-pumped growth under Barack Obama didn’t wash away the certain knowledge that when it came down to it, the people on Wall Street who gambled big and lost bigger had a soft landing.

America watched their 401(k)s vaporize, their home values plummet, and their job security vanish. While millions of Americans faced foreclosure and ruin, with nary a federal bailout in sight, the architects of the disaster were popping Cristal. Wall Street won twice; first by being bailed out from their own disaster, and then by having the Fed underwrite their expansion.

The kind of cynicism that sticks to your skin after that won’t come off, no matter how hot the shower.

As an economic conservative, I find crony capitalism to be the most pernicious kind. If you want to understand the fury at the American political class, the bailout of Wall Street banks and hedge funds is Exhibit A, and rightly so.

It gave us the Tea Party, which gave us Trump. It gave us Occupy Wall Street, which gave us Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The rising darkness in American’s political attitudes have also manifested as a response to the gig economy, and the increasing impossibility of the old dreams of homeownership and family. The renter economy, driven by the relentless McKinsey philosophy of crushing out benefits, shaving down the quality of life for both producers and consumers, and a relentless use of government to command the heights of economic power by using lobbying, regulatory capture or influence at the highest levels is another pain point from this decade.

The private sector jobs numbers may look good under this president, as they were under the last one.

Still, outside Silicon Valley and Wall Street, the economy is still a struggle for many; gig economy jobs don’t buy houses, rebuild savings, or make having a family affordable.

Rising costs on essentials like health care, crushing student loan debt (with a terrible return on investment for most), and the substitution of entertainment for investment has left Americans, particularly the rising generation of millennials, feeling lost and bitter. As a millennial woman in a recent focus group said wistfully, “I eat out four nights a week, pay for my data plan, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Spotify, and my gym, so I know why I can’t buy a house.”

Life spans are declining for the first time in a long time, and it’s not only because of the opioid epidemic. We’re   seeing more suicides . Birth rates are down. There’s a sickness inside of us.

Overt racism and anti-Semitism have made a roaring comeback. Here, I’m more than happier to put much of the blame at the feet of President Both Sides relentlessly stoking racial and ethnic fears and tensions. An emboldened cadre of overt racists inside the White House like Stephen Miller and former senior advisor Steve Bannon have emboldened those outside it like David Duke and Richard Spencer.

After repeating over and over that dangerous caravans of Mexican rapists were streaming toward America, Trump’s faux surprise that his followers took violent action in places like El Paso and the Tree of Life synagogue rang hollow.

Perhaps the most depressing trend in recent years in America was how we’ve become an InfoWars society, how the rise of lies, conspiracy nonsense and absurdly over-dramatized news has eaten away at the vital center of American discourse, leaving this decade feeling so bitter and hollow. Facebook, in particular, was rocket fuel of nutcase beliefs from anti-vaxxers to Seth Rich conspiracy crazies.

Once trust is gone, once the very notion of truth has eroded, what do we have left?

Little wonder we forgot who our enemies are, particularly in the last half of the decade, and abandoned our role in the world. Little wonder many of us embraced moral relativism when it came to Russia and China and North Korea. Little wonder we shredded our alliances and replaced the idea of America as a beacon of freedom with a kind of “Screw you, pay me” mercenary attitude.

Little wonder we told the world, “You’re not welcome here.” In the name of making American great again, we’re actually neglecting what is most precious, our very character.

What seems horrific today will be routine tomorrow. Kids in cages? If it goes on, the people who put those kids in cages will receive performance bonuses, promotions and awards. Even the monstrous feels somehow acceptable when there’s a manual for it, a rulebook full of anodyne regulations that makes everything seem less like horror and more like procedure.

It’s been a dark decade, and I wish I could give you a more optimistic view of tomorrow. I wish I could tell you America still has the old magic and we’ll recover. But honestly, I have my doubts. It would take both leaders at the national level to set powerful examples of courage, optimism, energy and doing the right thing when the political and national challenges are at their hardest.

Those folks are damn hard to find right now, and we seem to be stumbling toward a more divided and less prosperous and secure future. Ultimately a critical mass of the people have to want to drag their leaders away from their worst instincts and toward our own better angels. I’m not sure we have that anymore.

Hey...at least “The Mandalorian” on Disney+ is good, right?

Wilson is a Republican political consultant.



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JohnRussell
1  seeder  JohnRussell    7 months ago
As a result, this passing decade was marked by something darker, more divisive, more dangerous and ultimately more consequential. It was a time where all the small threads wove together into a kind of messy whole, and where a new era of bitterness and spite tore us apart in ways as surely as the 1960s cultural moment did.
Many of these were smaller changes. And as a nation, they, taken together, made us collectively smaller.
 
 
 
JohnRussell
2  seeder  JohnRussell    7 months ago

Donald Trump's presidency is , easily, the most shameful to happen to America in our lifetimes with the possible exception of wars and ongoing racism. 

 
 
 
Release The Kraken
3  Release The Kraken    7 months ago

Rising darkness? Rofl

The author has never watched cnbc. This year is the best year in market history. Everything thing this rag of a paper writes about is happening. Income gap closing, lowest minority unemployment and rising wages in the middke class. Shrinking poverty.

Wow now that is some serious TDS.

The Trump apocalypse is happening, hold me I'm scared.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
3.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Release The Kraken @3    7 months ago
Perhaps the most depressing trend in recent years in America was how we’ve become an InfoWars society, how the rise of lies, conspiracy nonsense and absurdly over-dramatized news has eaten away at the vital center of American discourse, leaving this decade feeling so bitter and hollow. 
 
 
 
Release The Kraken
3.1.1  Release The Kraken  replied to  JohnRussell @3.1    7 months ago

Infowars society? The author is a mentally disturbed lunatic living in a guilty white liberal elite bubble.

Impressive display for sure.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
3.1.2  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Release The Kraken @3.1.1    7 months ago

You did everything you could to make NT an Infowars society, so why are you surprised? 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
3.2  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Release The Kraken @3    7 months ago

You are becoming a loyal Trump supporter. 

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
3.2.1  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  JohnRussell @3.2    7 months ago

He always was.

 
 
 
MAGA
3.3  MAGA  replied to  Release The Kraken @3    7 months ago

Well he was one of the authors of the We are Republicans article someone seeded here and some tried to deify.  

 
 
 
bbl-1
4  bbl-1    7 months ago

America has been slipping away for nearly four decades.  Supply Side Economics.  Citizens United.  Lying about sexual encounters are the only item worthy of impeachment.  And the advent of the Forever War has stolen the last vestiges of American honor.   

 
 
 
Ronin2
4.1  Ronin2  replied to  bbl-1 @4    7 months ago
Lying about sexual encounters are the only item worthy of impeachment.

Still can't call perjury, and obstruction via witness tampering for what they are. People wonder why I refuse to be associated with the left anymore,

 
 
 
bbl-1
4.1.1  bbl-1  replied to  Ronin2 @4.1    7 months ago

What ever.  Forever Ubiquitous.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
4.2  Greg Jones  replied to  bbl-1 @4    7 months ago

Lying about sexual encounters are the only item worthy of impeachment.

And if you remember, Bubba Clinton was not impeached and removed for lying about a blowjob.

 
 
 
bbl-1
4.2.1  bbl-1  replied to  Greg Jones @4.2    7 months ago

You sure about that?

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
5  Perrie Halpern R.A.    7 months ago

I can kind of see some of the points he is making. 

Once trust is gone, once the very notion of truth has eroded, what do we have left?

Not much.

 
 
 
Sparty On
6  Sparty On    7 months ago

I can see some of what he's saying as well but it's all about cause and effect to me.   Comparing and contrasting previous and current generations is helpful in this regard IMO.   Many of us grew up in pretty dark times.   Many would say darker times.   Eg, few that didn't grow up then would ever understand what a "duck and cover" drill is but i really don't recall getting overly dark or foreboding about practicing for a Nuclear Bomb strike.   It was what it was .... we moved on.

Years ago, coming up i the Trades, many of us aspired to rise to the top so we could make top dollar.   Today young people expect top dollar immediately but without the experience required or responsibility that comes with it.   An apprentice told me the other day he didn't make enough money knowing full well his wage is negotiated by people he voted for (the person he should be bitching to and not me.)   Since he DOES make good money for our area i asked him where he was spending his money.   He couldn't give me a cogent answer because he had no idea.   This guy will likely never make enough in his mind.   How does one get past that mentality.    The answer is they probably don't .... they go to dark places i suppose because in their minds the entire world is picking on them.   They will probably never make enough and will likely never really deal with the reality of their situation.

I speak best in my little microcosm of the world but i suspect its similar in many other places in the USA.   A lot of generalizing going on here but this is the way it is in my little sphere of influence.

- We can't find young people willing to accept the responsibility of leadership today.   Folks used to aspire to that in the past to further their careers and benefit their families

- It's getting tougher and tougher to find folks willing to work.   Come in on time, work the hours they are paid for, complete their work efficiently and accurately.   Its bad.

- I find the lack of social interaction in many today to be disturbing.   There's little camaraderie like their use to be.   Everyone seems to be living in their own little shells

- Common sense seems to be a thing of the past.   If its not written in a book or being spoon fed to many today, they will be lost.   Few can think on their feet and improvise.

- Few accept any responsibly.   Rarely accepting fault for any wrongdoing.   Its always someone else fault.   Etc, etc,

I'm not sure what's driving these trends but they are real where i live and i have to admit, it is very disheartening.   Not sure how you help those who appear to be unwillingly to help themselves.   I'm just glad i'm almost done with having to deal with labor issues like that and i never thought i would say something that.   Adding my own little slice of darkness to the mix i suppose.  

Sooner or later one does get jaded by all that apathy on display.   Hard not to after years and years of it.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
7  Sean Treacy    7 months ago

Politics is downstream of culture.  As Ben Franklin recognized  told the woman  outside Constitutional  hall when asked about the forum of government they'd decided upon, "A Republic, if you can keep it." Any survey of history and human nature will qucikly show the American experiment is as close to a miracle as the world has ever seen and the default state of human existence is violent, tribal and selfish. 

But the erosion of our common values that make a functioning republic possible has been going on for decades.  Bowling Alone, written in the 90s, demonstrated how Americans, were turning away from communal life and retreating into insular groupings. The internet and social media has exacerbated that tendency a thousandfold.  Structures that brought people from diverse backgrounds together, Churches and other community organizations have withered away since the 70's and so has the sense of our physical community. I saw something the other day where something like 75% of adult  Americans aren't friends with any of their neighbors. What was that number in 1960? 10? 20?

And our institutions of higher learning have poured gasoline onto this fire.  Preaching identity politics and privilege at the expense of actual knowledge. Rather than bringing the next generation of leaders  together, universities only purpose seems to be driving them apart into groups. Promoting grievances and group think at the expense of learning and critical thinking. 

This is a massive structural problem with our society. How to reverse it and create the sense of community among Americans that will be necessary when times are actually tough (which we've avoided for generations) is the most pressing big picture problem this country faces. Everything gets papered over in times of well being and widespread peace. 

 
 
 
Sparty On
7.1  Sparty On  replied to  Sean Treacy @7    7 months ago
Any survey of history and human nature will qucikly show the American experiment is as close to a miracle as the world has ever seen

You've just melted some faces here with that truth.

 
 
 
It Is ME
8  It Is ME    7 months ago

"America watched their 401(k)s vaporize, their home values plummet, and their job security vanish. While millions of Americans faced foreclosure and ruin, with nary a federal bailout in sight"

That was the Obama Decade ! jrSmiley_89_smiley_image.gif

But we did have "THE" RACIAL Beer Summit back then ! That made EVERYTHING better. jrSmiley_99_smiley_image.jpg

The "Time of Trump" has made up for that "Past" failure by the "Left" ! jrSmiley_13_smiley_image.gif

The "Economy" is the biggest problem the "Left" has under Trump ! jrSmiley_98_smiley_image.gif

It's too good now for them to "Win" ....... ANYTHING ! jrSmiley_100_smiley_image.jpg

 
 
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