It’s Not a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington World: A Nation’s Core Values Under Attack, From Within

Right now, I am grieving for the United States.

For thoughtful statesmanship and diplomacy, which are no longer important to our commander-in-chief.

For common decency in the public square, which is largely absent and is rapidly disappearing altogether, everywhere.

For the common values of kindness that parents teach their children, as our nation’s leaders have been role-modeling cruelty and avarice.

For the importance of acting in an ethical manner, even when it goes against one’s personal interests.

For the respect our leaders used to show for the virtues of freedom and democracy, especially as our president embraces dictators and tyrants, and considers laws beneath him.

For the way our leaders used to value our allies, those who stood by us on battlefields, as our president snubs and insults them.

For the values enumerated on the base of the Statue of Liberty — which welcomed immigrants to our shores, people who helped build our nation into a powerhouse — although today, in our name, federal officials routinely take migrant toddlers from their parents’ arms and then lie about it.

For the aspirations we used to hear our leaders espouse about putting the future and sanctity of our country above partisan politics, something which the current politicians refuse to do.

For having leaders who speak about and with constituents respectfully, not just the ones who voted for them.

For the nation’s formerly rigorous, almost-uniform defense of free speech and press around the globe, as our president lauds international leaders who crush dissent and a free press, and himself menaces the American news media, depicting them as enemies who should be incarcerated. Or worse.

For the once-cherished notions of truth and science, ideas tossed in the dustbin by the leader of the free world has no use for either.

When will our country going to find its way again? When will we, as a nation, start to once more value statesmanship, decency, kindness, ethical behavior, freedom, democracy, allies, immigrants, free speech, free press, science and truth?

I don’t want to continually shout at the television or the news push alerts that appear on my cell phone with alarming frequency. I want to stop being angry and disappointed about the state of our nation’s affairs.

I want to see our leaders embody the lofty ideas that aimed to make our country a beacon of hope to the world. A shining city on a hill.

I want our leaders to stop calling each other “losers” on social media and to stop using the phrase “low-IQ.”

To stop lashing the dead over petty grievances in ways that only wound the family members left behind.

To stop using Twitter to spray insults and threats toward people who don’t think or look like you, sentiments that spread and infect others like a virus. A virus that can kill.

To stop enabling destructive, caustic behavior that eats away at the bedrock of our democracy like corrosive acid.

Our country is and has always been deeply, fundamentally flawed. But it’s worth fighting for.

I want our leaders to see our country’s possibilities, an inclusive future and its gleaming light that can, if given a chance, illuminate the dark corners of inequality, corruption and dictatorial behavior.

Was the president really onto something when he said he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and “not lose any voters?” I really, really, hope not.

Meredith O’Brien is a Boston area writer.

Image credit: Wikipedia, promotional still from the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington , published in National Board of Review Magazine. (Columbia Pictures — National Board of Review Magazine for November 1939, Volume XIV, Number 8, page 14)