The slow decline of American positivism?

October 14th, 2006 by dino

[crikey! a serious post from dino]

I’ve noticed a gradual but distinct change in America since I started visiting it often, around 2000. American people used to be unimaginably positive, especially when talking about anything related to America. They had the best, biggest, fastest, mostest and happiest of everything. Many people took it to be American arrogance, but I never thought of it like that. I don’t mean this to be insulting in any way: it is one of the most endearing things about a culture I love.

However, I’ve noticed this has started to change. I’m certainly neither a sociologist nor anything qualified that would give any credibility to what I say – it’s just a feeling I have. I sense that America is losing its positive attitude.

Here are some photos I took this week.

Sign on a church reading: The worst kind of religion is no religion at all.

The first, taken in Central Square, Cambridge, is a sign on a church that reads “The Worst Kind of Religion is no Religion at all”. I can’t help but read this as “Religion: better than nothing”. As a strictly non-religious person I appreciate the lack of strong messaging. However, it still puzzles me that one of the most religious countries in the World, a country whose government is basically chosen by the religious majority, has started to soften.

Sign on a school in Roslindale that reads: Students please do your best

The next is a sign in front of a school in Roslindale, MA that reads “Students please do your best”. It makes no mention of inspiration, achievement, goals, self-worth or encouragement of any kind. Instead it sounds like a desperate plea to the students to at least try for the minimum. I wonder what type of environment this school provides.

Of course these are only two minor examples. But I’m not hearing the positive statements I used to hear from my American friends. Instead they seem almost resigned to a lack of achievement.

I wonder if it is the way the American Government has broadcast the message of fear for the last 5 years: that America needs to be afraid of the rest of the World, of unseen, unstoppable terrorists that could strike at the heart of the country at any moment. It’s probably hard to be positive in that environment.

Then there is the fact that their armed forces, the bulging bicep of the World’s Greatest Democracy, has been unable to ‘finish’ in Iraq. Despite ending the reign of Saddam Hussain, something that I think of as a success, the current situation appears to be considered hopeless by my American friends. Maybe because it isn’t a loss? Americans can bounce back from a loss, they way they did from September 11, but an ambiguous and difficult situation like Iraq seems to be more upsetting in the long term.

Meanwhile we’ve seen the increasing rise in popularity of programs like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” which clearly point out the inadequacies of the government and much of American industry. I love these shows, as do many of the Americans I know, but they are successful because they make fun of the negatives in American life, or more accurately, the negatives that really should be (or used to be) considered positives.

Another fact: their obviously (to me) smart President acts like a moron. Sure, a minority of America can be happy in thinking that they don’t need to be the smartest in the world because they have it better than everyone in the world. But I see a huge amount of intellectual pride in cultures like France, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Canada, Australia and England. I’m sure Americans had more of that pride while they had an intelligent President. The current government looks like they chose a type of messaging that would get them elected at the cost of their nation’s self belief.

[wow, I’m really getting into this blogging thing now!]

I don’t want to see America lose its positive attitude. America, please don’t change any more. Please elect a government that will keep you they way you used to be. I liked it.

2 Responses to “The slow decline of American positivism?”

  1. amy Says:

    That’s a very interesting take on things and I think you’re right about a lot of it.

    It sounds odd, maybe, but thanks for liking America, thanks for seeing some good in us.

  2. retro Says:

    Colbert for President! I love the guy and even though he’s wacky and wierd, he’d be better than any of the other candidates.

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