Failing forward has never worked.
“No society can flourish of which the greater part is poor and miserable.”
― Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
It’s hard to believe how much things have changed in the last twenty years. For instance, the 1990’s saw a wave of innovations come out of the United States that changed the world. The internet and personal computing put the entire globe on a new path; a victory that the US heavily celebrated.
I’m too young to remember the collapse of the USSR, or the triumphalism that followed in the West. My political awakening — like many of my generation — coincided with the destruction of the twin towers.
I remember the confusion and the chaos that followed. I remember the tears and the bewildered faces that asked, “How could this happen to us?” And I remember the anger that erupted in their hearts.
At that time, I had only the principles of my family and country to guide me. I had been told that to work hard and compete was an honor and a privilege. I was taught that America was the best country on Earth and no one could ever defeat it because it didn’t take short cuts.
They told me Americans didn’t back down from a challenge.
I saw that part first hand in the lead up and execution of the Iraq War. American didn’t back down from the challenge of terror. Instead, they rushed willingly into the fray to defend their homeland. The problem was, nobody was sure who to defend America from. The threat seemed to be everywhere, and nowhere.
Growing up, I had to say the pledge of allegiance every morning. I put my hand over my heart and said the words. In church, I sat diligently and listened to the sermons. I tried to absorb their wisdom.
What I learned was simple: America was a force for good and it’s people were hard working and blessed by god.
There was little reason to question this narrative. The media depicted America as an epitome of reason and virtue. Sure, they were sometimes a little rough around the edges. They had a tendency to go vigilante and ignore the rules, but deep down it was because Americans loved freedom.
It was my generation, in the wake of the Columbine shooting, that first saw cops move into the classrooms. I remember arguing with my family and community about how it was a clear violation of American principles, their principles. They retorted with a line that has came to haunt me:
“If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear.”
I wonder how many Americans still feel this way with Donald Trump in the white house? Once upon a time, I was told Americans were a force of good in the world, blessed by god. We were going to bring democracy to the middle east.
And the liberals themselves seem to have come full circle. I see the same looks of confusion and bewilderment I saw twenty years ago. They ask, “How could this happen to us?”
Donald Trump rose to power promising to return America to the glory days of the 80’s and 90’s when it stood in triumph over the fallen Soviet Union.
The fallout from forever wars and the economic collapse of 2008 hollowed out America’s confidence. The people began to feel that things would never change for the better.
Four years later and Trump has done more to undermine the country than any president before him. His policies of blatant protectionism have only further weakened America’s economy, and his penchant for lies and thuggish slander have damaged our image on the world stage.
Twenty years ago we were innovating the world of tomorrow. Now, that job is in China. And America, under Trump, is terrified. No longer do they believe in competing to be the best. Now they want a strongman to protect them from the harsh realities of the world.
While America’s leaders coast by on government bailouts, the rest of the world is eager to take advantage of new ideas and new advances.
While Americans demand that Donald Trump bring their jobs back, other countries are reminded that nothing is stopping them from inventing the jobs of tomorrow.
I wonder what’s stopping Americans?
Twenty years ago, young men my age were running off to defend America. Today, those same men are begging Trump to clean up the mess they’ve made.
There was a time when Americans took up the challenge of inventing the next big thing. Now they’re satisfied in reveling in conspiracies about the dangers of 5G.