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  • Writer's pictureLuis Rueda

We Are Destroying This Nation

I spent 28 years of my adult life defending this country. I don't say that to obtain admiration, to pat myself on the back, or to gain your respect. Millions of Americans have defended this country over the centuries, many doing much more in the nation's defense than I have ever done. Thousands paid the ultimate price in its defense. I tell you this to put into context what I am about to say. We, the American people, are destroying this nation.

For a people that repeatedly shouts how everyone needs to take responsibility for their actions, we love to blame someone else. We hate taking responsibility when things go wrong or we act like assholes. It's the other guy, it's this -ism or that -ism. It's never us. We love to blame others for our failings, never taking responsibility for what we do as if our actions have no real negative consequences. Yet, it is us. We have allowed ourselves to become extremely polarized, we actually relish it. We have stopped identifying ourselves as Americans first and more as a political party or political leaning. We view everyone on the other side as the enemy, as evil incarnate. The terms we use to define the other side would be so ridiculous if it weren't a serious problem.

We no longer care about each other as people unless we are of the same political persuasion, yet we claim to be Christian while spewing hate and violence. We have allowed EVERYTHING to be politicized, from the coffee we drink to the clothing we wear. Our media is politicized. We are even in the process of politicizing the military, beginning the battle over which generals are left-leaning and which are right-leaning. I have personally observed that argument play out in numerous foreign countries and it has never ended well. Once that firewall is breached we are truly screwed.

A large segment of the population no longer supports democracy. They would rather have some type of authoritarian rule, whether a one-party state or even a king, it does not matter to them, as long as the other side is crushed. These people don't even see the irony or contradiction. The United States was created, in part, to do away with a king, to prevent a dictatorship. Yet here are people—claiming to be patriots, claiming to defend the constitution— trampling over that document. To be honest, I don't even think they understand what they are doing. They likely have never read or understood the constitution, don't really know U.S. history other than some vague, simplistic propaganda version of actual history.

Everyone hates the government yet they do not see the irony in holding up signs that read "keep the government out of my Medicare/Medicaid." We hate the government while expecting so much from it, such as defense and protection, drivable highways, clean water and air, help when times are hard and the economy is rocky. Yes, we say pull yourself up by your bootstraps, stop relying on the government for handouts, etc. until it is us in trouble, then the government better be there for us. We will crap all over our neighbors and deny them help, especially if they disagree with us, but expect them to help us when we are in trouble.

I am not against healthy political debate or any debate. Disagreement is an essential part of democracy, as is compromise. Various, at times opposing, views help take into account all sides of an issue. However, the goal is to reach an agreement that incorporates the best from all sides. That is not what we have today. We are so splintered that compromise and agreement are seen as evils. It has become “winner take all,” except there is little left to take. We don't discuss, we don't debate, we just yell and throw accusations at each other. The intent is to win votes and block any chance of anything being accomplished. We elect these people. We support them. If we complain that the government does not get anything done, that it is broken, whose fault is it? We choose these people and keep on choosing them.

Our institutions are failing us, all our institutions: politicians, judges, the media, the private sector. They label us, keep us divided, place us in various camps, all for their personal gain and profit. It is no longer about passing laws that benefit the American people. It is about gaining and holding power while enriching themselves. It is about blocking any legislation that benefits the people if that legislation helps the other side win votes. At this point, you might be saying that I am blaming others and not taking responsibility as I stated in the beginning. The truth is that we let this happen, we keep electing these very same people who fail us. We accept this betrayal of the American people as long as those in power can punish the other side. Also at this point, if you are marshaling your arguments about how the other side is responsible for this sad state of affairs then you are part of the problem.

You allow yourself to be influenced by foreign nations spreading disinformation on social media, accepting their lies before asking yourself whether it is true or not, and doing the research. You have become lazy and are more than happy for others to do your thinking for you as long as it doesn't challenge your preconceived notions and beliefs. We have become undisciplined, crying if we have to make sacrifices or defer our need for instant gratification.

I no longer recognize this country. We might as well take the word United out of our name since it no longer applies. I took an oath to uphold and defend the constitution and now watch as so many people tear it apart in order to defend it. During my career, I underwent numerous background investigations to maintain my security clearance. One question that was always asked was whether I supported the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. How many people could honestly answer no nowadays?

For you self-proclaimed patriots, I will recount a story. A conversation took place recently in an upscale suburban neighborhood, well-to-do parents having a nice lunch. These were conservatives but really could have been any political leaning. The discussion centered around world tensions and the fear of possible conflicts between the United States and various other nations. The parents were concerned. What struck me the most was a statement from one father who said, "Why are you worried? Our kids will never have to go off and fight." That is the essence of America today, we are true patriots, as long as we don't have to make any sacrifices for the nation. Let's leave that to the few.

As I write this at 4 am I no longer recognize this country, this country that helped win WWII, developed the largest economy, the most influential culture, put a man on the moon, and developed the most consequential technologies in the world. I see a nation seriously divided, torn apart, and paralyzed, where ignorance and superstition are gaining ground. It is our fault because we not only let this happen but we are actively participating in the nation's divisions. We are squandering the sacrifices made by past generations to safeguard and build this nation into a powerhouse. I find myself asking the question "Are we worthy of their sacrifice?"

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