When I graduated from high school in 1959, America was different than it is now. At that time prosperity was more widespread and the middle class was larger. Minimum wage workers were paid a living wage, and they could even save some money, get an affordable education, and improve their lot with hard work. And that was largely because the New Deal that President Roosevelt had instituted in the 1930s had gradually improved the lives of the majority of Americans.
Unfortunately, during the last five decades there has been a gradual but steady decline in the well being of most Americans, because there has been a gradual but steady increase in corruption, inequity, poverty, crime, and violence, all of which are clear indicators of the failure of executive, legislative and judicial leadership.
Of course, the leaders who have caused the problems (or failed to address them) claim that there will always be the poor because they deserve their lot, and that there will always be corruption, crime and violence because people are innately sinful. Those claims, however, are false. The truth is that even though this may never be a perfect world, good and fair leadership can and will make it far better than it is now, since bad leadership has made it a virtual hell for many people who are suffering while the wealthiest few live high on the hog.
It has been that way many times throughout history, and despite many different revolutions in many different places, greed and self-interest has always crept in and driven some people to want to rule by gaining personal power, wealth, and domain. But power always corrupts, and the powerful always fall from their ivory tower.
In my view, it was in the 1960s that America's decline really began, even though the signs of it did not become newsworthy to the media until the decades of the 1990s and 2000s when the consequences of political and corporate corruption became unescapable.
Ironically, it was moderate Republican President Eisenhower during his farewell address in 1961 who tried to warn Americans about it. In fact, he issued a crucial warning against the acquisition of too much power by the U.S. Military Industrial Complex. But, too many Americans ignored that warning and forgot how easily power corrupts. And, even worse, too many Americans also ignored and forgot the universal divine imperative (which happens to also be the golden rule).
Consequently, the abuse of power and wealth by corporate industrial forces grew, along with the abuse of power by political leadership. Noteworthy early examples of that were in Selma in 1965 against the Civil Rights Movement, in Chicago in 1968 against the Anti-War Movement, in Berkeley in 1969 against the Free Speech Movement, and at Kent State in 1970 against the Anti-War Movement, because those with power and authority resorted to violent and even lethal suppression of protesters to "keep law and order," rather than listen to the people, face the truth, redress grievances, and make amends.
Unfortunately, many Americans do not understand that yet.
Many Americans misunderstand history because they've been misled and even deceived by certain political and religious leaders, some of whom may have thought they were doing the right thing, but most of whom were and are actually greedy and corrupt, but masquerade as good.
That us why many misguided Americans still believe that the true American spirit was "reborn" in 1981 when a very charming man rose to the power of the presidency as a so-called "conquering hero." They do not yet realize that he was a demagogue, and they ignore that when he was Governor of California he reacted violently against the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley in 1969, contributing to the wave of confrontational violence that swept across the U.S. and deeply polarized and divided Americans.
That demagogue gained presidential power in 1981 with the support of those who understood that waving the flag, thumping the bible and rattling a sword can stir up zealous emotions and pride. Unfortunately, it's the kind of pride that is distorted and perverted by bigotry and prejudice. For if you make people feel superior, whether for nationalistic or religious or racial reasons, you can easily get them to jump on your bandwagon and march to the same drum, cheering.
Thus the fact is that in 1981 the true American spirit was ignored, and America began its slide down a very slippery slope which would result in the inevitable consequences of self-interest, greed, corruption, bigotry, avarice, mendacity, and military-corporate-industrial imperialism.
That is why America is now in turmoil, conflict and tribulation, and that is why I have become increasingly ashamed of it during the last several decades.
That is why I now submit that it's high time that the network media journalists start doing their job properly, to educate the public and keep all politicians honest, because the media has failed to do that. Instead, they've actually enabled bad leadership, and thus many Americans have been misled and deceived by that bad leadership.
In fact, bad leadership has caused the trouble that plagues us. Bad leadership has divided us. Bad leadership has served the interests of the wealthiest few at the expense of the majority and to the detriment of about 60 million poor Americanswho have insufficient incomes. (And that, by the way, includes the working poor, because 78 percent of the poor work full time and yet still can't afford all the basic necessities of life. See the page on Poverty: America's Hidden Shame.)
Another one of the consequences of bad leadership is that America now leads the world in both the number and percentage of its citizens in prison, and America has one of the highest rates of violence in the world. And I'm not talking about the kind of violence we see in certain other countries where it is caused by war or by large organized militias or groups using deadly weapons against people of other ethnicities, races or religions.