I wanted to share with you the conclusion of Lance Morrow’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on our present national mood:
Right now, Americans are in a bad mood. They have good reason. They are divided. But for much of its career, the country has been two nations. Binaries are the real American way: North and South, slave holder and abolitionist, frontier and Ellis Island, East and West, urban and rural, labor and management, strikers and Pinkertons, gold and silver, wet and dry, hawk and dove, black and white, Indian and paleface. Trump and woke.
One big difference in 2021 is the screens. In the old America, there were far fewer versions of the country’s story available to choose from. But the 21st century’s never-sleeping screens churn forth myriad narratives. Information is democratized and weaponized. In the floating world of the internet, only the old hierarchies of myth are suspect. Special-interest “identities” come forward with urgent claims as to race and gender and social justice and equity. There are doubts as to whether America is a good country, as it once believed itself to be, or a wicked one that must be overturned and replaced—and, indeed, whether schools can be named after Abraham Lincoln any longer because he was, contrary to everything you previously believed, a “white supremacist.”
In this environment, the country’s old master narrative is on track to be first disreputable, then forgotten: canceled. Americans can’t stand to think themselves immoral. Irreconcilable, each side claims, in a sort of theological way, to be the right and righteous one. No wonder the nation’s mood is poisonous.
In addition to “the screens” there are other differences between today and the Great Depression. For one thing at that time we had a president genuinely committed to uniting the country and who used the latest technology to do so. Maybe I’m misreading the situation but I don’t see that commitment today.
For another the percentage of immigrant population at that time was lower than it is now, was declining, and would continue to decline for 40 years. The immigrants of 80 years ago were quite different from those of today. They had left their old countries behind and by and large wanted to be seen as 100% Americans. Today technology means they reach out to family and friends in the old country on a daily basis if they care to and their ties to the U. S. are not nearly as strong.
For yet another 80 years ago we had an educational system and mass media dedicated to promoting our “old master narrative”. That is not the case to day to say the least.