An Open Letter to America

I’ve been involved in civic life for many years and thought I was quite well informed about American politics and culture. The events following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, including preemptive war, a financial crash and unconscionable inequality, shattered my assumptions.

In twelve years the United States of America has gone from a country that was seemingly thriving to one in freefall. The change is astonishing, terrifying and of a magnitude that is overwhelming to the point of debilitating. I became determined to find out how this happened.

The search has been all-consuming and absolutely fascinating. The story that emerged was way beyond any history books I had read and more incredible than any work of fiction. The national consensus deteriorated into a culture war that has much more to do with how we think and what we believe than actual issues or events.

This debacle didn’t just happen. It was made to happen by a Republican Party that ran from its principled past to extremism and an inept Democratic Party unable to communicate and defend authentic America values. Both were drowned in political money, controlled by lobbyists, enabled by a mostly complacent citizenry and glossed over by the mainstream media The meaning of democracy in America was submerged.

Our country is at a major tipping point. We have the resources we need to create a better future for all. Horribly, we also have power brokers doing whatever is needed to maintain the control needed to serve their egos, ideology and greed. These relatively few people are messing with our future and that makes me extremely angry.

Critical issues include imbalance of income and opportunity where innocent people are suffering and the big winners seem oblivious to their pain. And the subversive manipulation of people’s emotions for political and financial gain. And perpetual war for corporate profit. And the absence of empathy for others, particularly those who look different. And ignoring climate change. And the massive national debt we’re dumping on future generations. And more.

How did we in two centuries develop the most powerful country in the history of the world and then drag it down to third-world status in a decade? Even more heartbreaking is the damage done to the soul of America, the first country ever founded on idealism. We were great because we were good (mostly). Many of us believed we were progressing from old injustices toward a more fully shared realization of the American dream.

Dumbing down and willful ignorance are high on the list of root causes right along with distraction, deceit and lies.

Democracy is the best form of government ever invented and could be excellent if more people took it seriously and if elected representatives didn’t betray the public trust. Capitalism could work well as a financial system if greed didn’t run rampant. Democracy is based on having an educated citizenry but we let public education disintegrate. “Of the people, by the people and for the people” means ALL the people.

Religion, money, sex, politics – some years back these topics were not to be discussed in polite company. Now they are driving our national dialogue and policy making. Teaching of civics and the humanities declined severely. That left a void in the public consciousness into which nonsense, parading as common sense and morality, was dumped.

Exploiting religion in pursuit of power is perhaps the most deadly sin. The United States of America was founded on the principle of religious freedom – freedom of and freedom from religion, not as a “Christian” nation. Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about right wing religious leaders wanting to control the government. So did Barry Goldwater.

That ultra-conservative fringe never gave up but it seems too many others did. Right wing religious leaders and their unholy alliance including big money and political operatives now control the Republican Party and could be only one election away from seizing the control of government they have so long coveted.

We need to talk. And act.

I immersed myself in self-education and assembled data points that have been compiled into a framework to help me see how the disparate parts form a big picture. Everything is interconnected. I have borrowed from countless wise and generous patriots who served democracy by sharing their knowledge, especially through the public internet. Some of this information and opinion is posted on my website www.ProgressiveValues.org along with the framework for dialogue and action. It’s a work-in-progress. I’m continually expanding my knowledge and imagination based on newly found information and opinions. There’s always more to the story.

I urge Americans to learn from this material, seek out other perspectives and participate in a mammoth public dialogue and citizen uprising.

Our democracy depends on educated, activated citizens. I fear it’s not an overstatement to say our civilization depends on all of us actively caring for planet earth, the human family and our country by reversing this tragic downward trajectory and once again making progress toward fulfilling the promise of America.

America’s story is being told through many voices sharing their wisdom on the internet — a virtual dialogue. Thank you to all.  If you want your information changed or removed, just send me an e-mail.  This project is especially directed to people who want to become more involved and need a quick civics lesson focusing on worldview and values.

With audacious faith, Phyllis Stenerson

“We must move forward with audacious faith. The arc of the universe of long but it bends toward justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

updated 2/20/13

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