Reflecting On, and In, America

2 April 2024

This is adapted from the blog by this title posted on 19 July 2019, part of a series entitled Donald Trump is not the Problem.

As discussed in a recent blog, some of the people who support Donald Trump are just plain angry, for whatever reason. But others feel betrayed by a system that has been stacked against them, including many in the middle class who worry about losing their job, or incurring unbearable health care costs, or just having to struggle to make ends meet as food costs and mortgage rates rise. Who can blame them for asking why, as their country and its wealthiest citizens gets richer, they get poorer?

To use Hilary Clinton’s disparaging word from an earlier election, who is more deplorable: these people who support Donald Trump, or other people who have driven so many of them to do so? Alongside the 1%, include the fortunate (15%?) who benefit from them in one way or another—lawyers, consultants, accountants, executives, academics—while taking Uber to send more working people toward the minimum wage. If we want to see a deplorable, we might try looking in the mirror.

Fake Facts from and for all

Fake facts are deplorable too. But they have been inundating society long before Donald Trump came along—even if he does take political theater to a new level. Recall the fake facts of past elections; count the advertisements that lie by omission if not commission, including those that sell politicians like detergents; consider what Fox News and the tabloids have been doing for years, now joined by more brazen blogs.

Who these days doesn’t play loose and easy with the facts, from celebrities who endorse products they don’t use to economists who claim to have won a Nobel Prize that doesn’t exist? The American economy is doing well, we are told—just look at the rate of employment. How about looking at the state of employment: languishing incomes, shameful minimum wages, the debilitation of unionization, the shift to contract work, and the normalization of downsizing—21st century bloodletting—at the drop of a share price.

Reflecting in America

America is a land of action more than reflection. At a party in rural Virginia, I listened to a group of retired military guys go on and on about the horrors of government and taxes, without ever stopping to think that every cent they ever earned came from government and taxes. The country is high on “individualism,” but be careful, because it can mean two quite different things: acting for oneself is running rampant; thinking for oneself is shrinking.

New York Times columnist David Brooks has written about the cult conformity that has displaced “individual thought” in America. This can be found from “Make America great again” for the excluded and “Fix capitalism to fix society” for the entitled to “If freedom is to prevail…American leadership is urgently required” for the establishment (Madeleine Albright). The latter focuses on noble America, as if there has never been a nasty America: no Vietnam, no Iraq and elsewhere, never an agenda on behalf of business, just selective memory.

These days, once again, liberal media such as the New York Times and CNN read like rants: article after article, comment after comment, about Donald Trump’s latest transgression, with rarely an insightful probe into what is truly troubling America—and those troubled Americans. All this while the country, capitalism, and leadership spin out of control. This is not the wisdom of crowds; it is groupthink—and hardly restricted to the MAGA crowd.

I post this for the sake of more reflection in America. We need a noble America, and noble Americans, not to save everyone else, but to join noble peoples everywhere in saving all of us.


© Henry Mintzberg 2024, with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.