America is suffering from a single crisis that fuels all others: loss of faith. I am not referring to spiritual faith, for there are many who broadcast their beliefs with fire and fury. I am not referencing faith in party or tribe, as there are many who wrap themselves in the symbols of their brand, displaying the glory of their convictions for all to witness. I am referring to the loss of faith in the goodwill and positive intentions of their fellow man. The foundation of this decline being the presumption that everyone not of their ilk is inherently deceptive, untrustworthy, and even evil; that the world is malevolent by nature.
This corroded and divisive perspective makes sustainable and meaningful societal, political and economic progress unattainable. This is because the energy of cooperation, goodwill and mutual trust is the lattice that societies leverage and build upon to overcome challenges and power a brighter future.
The impact of this infected worldview of bias toward the negative has long-term, profound affects; it is also often subtle and hidden from view. Its festering animosity tends to lurk just below the surface of headline-grabbing events because its rancor is a catalyst that expands and amplifies tragedy and suffering; rarely is it the genesis. However, there has been a visible shift out of the shadows as increasingly the consequences of this distrustful and antagonistic mindset are coming into view, stepping out of dark corners and into the streets, courtrooms, and most recently, into the Nation’s Capital itself.
The effects of this destructive perspective extend well beyond political debate. It is eroding trust that has led many to dismiss the warnings of scientist and doctors about the threat posed by the Corona virus in favor of their YouTube stream, tailored social media feeds, celebrity opinion and personal convenience. There is no clearer sign of the disorienting and dysfunctional effect of a worldview distorted and warped by the negative than the fact that doctors are trusted to deliver our babies, perform our bypass surgeries and administer our chemotherapy, yet we distrust their advice to wear a simple mask.
The aftermath of the Presidential Election provides another stark example of declining faith. It is one thing to question the veracity of a small local election. It is quite another to smear electoral suspicion and paranoia nationally across the process that has defined democracy since 1789. To do so requires one to believe not only that there are those of nefarious intent in positions of authority in multiple states’ elections, but that their enablers are in co-conspiratorial roles in hundreds of jurisdictions within those states. Even more diabolical, that thousands of bad-actors have the allegiance of tens-of-thousands of elections workers, contactors and elected officials from both parties, as well and state and federal courts. Finally, one has to imagine this massively complex and highly coordinated effort exists in secret in the age of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and others. To believe that the majority of your fellow citizens are plotting against democracy defines a crisis of faith.
Unsurprisingly, a scan of media headlines gives the impression that the sky is falling, and that deep distrust and animosity are the prevailing mentality of the majority of Americans. Fortunately, this perspective is merely a mirage presented by some sectors of the media via promotion of the sensational in pursuit of ratings, not the reality.
In fact, the empathic, moral, well-intended and positively oriented represent the majority of the population and prevailing attitude in America. Yes, 30,000 attended the protest at the US Capital and hundreds stormed the building. Yet, while this was happening, tens-of-millions of Americans were oriented toward and in pursuit of the positive, actively building a better tomorrow. Emergency workers and medical staff were providing care and assistance to those in need. Grocery, retail and transpiration workers and many others were on the job providing access to vital goods and services. Even Congress, as dysfunctional and partisan as it has been, saw the majority of its members rise-up and stand united in the face of a crises that threatened the fabric of our democracy. On a tragic day, they all carried a piece of the American dream forward.
There is no doubt that the challenges we are facing today are tectonic and shake the very core of personal beliefs and expectations. But it is worth remembering that the majority of people are immensely resilient, determined, of good intention and are actively in pursuit of the positive. They have not lost faith in their fellow man nor the future.
Attitude is the most personal of choices. It is also the most determinant. It is the selection and orientation of individual attitude, positive or negative, that defines one’s expectations for the future and is therefore the best predictor of accomplishment. As such, during times of turmoil, it is the leader within that makes the choice that matters most. The deliberate decision to seek out, pursue and embrace the positive, and in doing so carry an entire nation forward.