With a new normal emerging in America, lessons from our past could serve us well

October 30, 2023 5:50 am

As we confront the new normal emerging in America, examining and heeding the lessons from our past could serve us well, writes Janice Ellis (Joe Raedle/Getty Images).

In today’s political environment, one could easily conclude that America is in the midst of a metamorphosis, where its character and identity are undergoing radical change.

When you consider the major shifts and developments in the public square that have occurred during these first decades of the 21st century, some disturbing trends cannot be ignored.

More divisiveness: Not only in the halls of government but also among the general public.

More proselytization: Blatant promotion of lies and the passive tolerance of it.

More violence: Frequent acts of random mass violence and a growing acceptance of it as part of everyday life. A recent poll shows some Americans even support political violence.

The list could go on.

Change is inevitable, but it need not be predominantly negative or destructive.

There is research documenting and analyzing many societal changes — political, technological and cultural — that will make daily life better and worse.

In spite of advances and progress in many areas, you could find yourself longing for the America that used to be.

When we look at what is happening in the body politic on a national level, we could long for the time when the political parties could agree to disagree and yet work together to try to find common ground and pass legislation on many issues.

There are many issues that need redress: Reducing the national debt; passing a budget; implementing a fair taxation system; immigration reform; passing measures to reduce the likelihood of mass violence; addressing climate control; protection of voting rights; and others.

Yet, Congress moving from the morass of one quagmire to another rules the day.

In our daily lives, there are other areas where we could wish for the good ole days, where we hold out hope that things will become far better than they currently are.

One such area is random gun violence. We are reminded each time programming is interrupted by breaking news of yet another mass shooting with multiple deaths and injuries.

We can find ourselves longing for an America where we could go about our normal activities — shopping, dining, recreating — and not have an intermittent or nagging thought that we may be hit, killed, or have to hide or flee from a mass gunman.

We can long for an America where our school children didn’t have to have periodic drills to protect themselves from a crazed, mad or mentally ill person with an automatic weapon.

There are other areas that impact our daily lives and quality of living, like: earning a better minimum wage to help us keep up with the rising cost of living; having home ownership to once again be within our reach; and access to a quality education for our children.

There was a time when the future outlook in many aspects of our lives was more hopeful.

From time to time, we all become nostalgic, longing for times past no matter what our current state might be.

What we are experiencing, observing, and hoping for now — based on the state of our nation — goes beyond what is considered typical nostalgia.

As we know, lessons from the past are instructive if we only heed them.

Sadly, there are generations of Americans who have only known the growing hyper partisanship, irrationality, extremism, revenge-seeking that have dominated our legislative halls during the last ten to fifteen years.

But, it wasn’t that long ago when legislators were willing to work across the isle in the spirit of finding workable solutions to myriad of issues. Negotiations and compromises ruled the day.

There is so much riding on whether we as a nation, state and community can find our way back to those things that help sustain us.

While the good ole days were not perfect, they certainly seem to be better when it comes to having more unity around the governing principles, laws, institutions, practices that define America and upon which a better tomorrow can be built.

Families, communities, cities, states and nations are always better off when we learn from our past, the good and the bad. With America, it will be no different.

As we confront the new normal emerging in America, examining and heeding the lessons from our past could serve us well.

Given where we are today, what kind of America do you long for?

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.