By Robert A. Vella
America was founded on written principles, good ones which have served to inspire not only its own citizens to correct longstanding injustices but other denizens of the world as well. These principles allowed Americans to stand high on a pedestal of moral and ethical virtue that shined brightly across the oceans where the arbitrary edicts of authoritarianism had ruled supreme. It was a relative standard, of course, as American leaders have frequently defied it; but, the effects cannot be denied. In a world once devoid of democracy and the rule of law, these governmental structures are now commonplace.
However, it is difficult to stand on such a pedestal and it becomes impossible when those who attempt to sacrifice its fundamental principles for the allure of political pragmatism and expediency. With the 2016 election coming to an embarrassing conclusion, America’s great fall from loftiness is for everyone to see. In a Washington Post editorial this weekend, Griff Witte reveals how the rest of the world is viewing America’s momentous moral and ethical decay. Here is an excerpt:
The U.S. presidential election — America’s quadrennial chance to showcase for the world how democracy works in the most powerful nation on Earth — has become instead an object lesson in everything that ails a country long seen as a beacon of freedom and hope.
Debates devoid of issues and deep in the gutter of personal insult. Interference from foreign intelligence services. Endless leaked emails, and FBI investigations that could extend long beyond Tuesday.
Americans may cringe watching their own election at close range. But the world’s reaction has been, in a sense, even more poignant and foreboding.
People in small and distant countries who count on the United States to stand up for democratic values have been astonished to see the essential components — a free press, the rule of law, respect for the outcome of elections — trammeled.
Long-standing allies have been left to wonder whether the essential American character has changed, and whether the United States can be relied on when it counts.
The editorial goes on to describe how the loss of American credibility overseas is damaging its geopolitical influence while fostering the demise of free and open societies at a time when strident xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise. This trend, left unchecked, will lead to dire consequences for the entire world.
It should also be of no surprise that the perception of America’s changing character has coincided with a precipitous decline in the quality of public education in the U.S. The resultant dumbing-down of the collective American intellect has heavily tipped the attitudinal scales away from adherence to principles in favor of shortsighted and reactionary opportunism. Accordingly, American politics has followed suit. As we have stated many times on this blog, healthy societies find the right balance between ideology and pragmatism. Either extreme is inherently dangerous. It appears that America today has lost that essential balance.