The current fashionable answer to what ails our country is to assign blame to Wall Street and wealth. After all, lobbying and money are polluting the political process as never before.  And we cannot overlook the carnage to our economy that greed, hubris and malfeasance in the financial community have wrought. It is also human nature that when things are not going well we look elsewhere for the cause. Wall Street and wealth are understandable objects of anger and frustration.

This emphasis however, from punditry to media coverage, can be a distraction that misdirects our focus onto the symptoms rather than the underlying causes of our current difficulties. We need to take a long, hard, collective look in the mirror. It is we, after all, who elected the politicians, bought in or acquiesced to “trickle down” and other economic nonsense and either supported or, despite our anger, stood apathetic while our government spent and cut revenues resulting in horrific debt levels, failed to curb financial excesses and bailed out those who defrauded and bungled.

As hard and unfashionable as it may be to accept, the ultimate problem is us. We have one of the lowest voter participation rates of the major democracies. Our receptivity to fear-based and negative arguments, our penchant for simplistic labeling and inability to talk with one another, as opposed to at one another, contribute to our discord and division. We argue about ideology rather than attempt to find win-win common ground related to our needs. Our schizophrenic priorities for things like education, where we say they are critical and then make them the first to be cut and held hostage politically, contribute to our situation. And too many have been complicit in allowing the underpinning of capitalism, greed, to remain inadequately in check on too many fronts; too many of us have believed that the path to a good life was inextricably tied to increasing the wealth of the already wealthy.

There is much more detail in America Adrift, the book. Yet while some individually may not accept the mea culpa, nor should they in all aspects, the fact remains that until the cultural issues discussed in the book change for a majority of Americans, the prospect of altering our politics and restoring our democracy will remain frustratingly beyond our grasp.

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