Our ongoing failure to achieve racial and gender equality and inclusion is a deeply troubling aspect of our national life – indeed one that violates foundational principles of the American project. However, it is far from the only problem our country now faces. In politics we’re fighting in exceptionally angry ways, in economics the gap between rich and poor is tremendous in virtually all aspects of life; in social life we are often lonely, disconnected, and despairing; and our “selfie” culture continually reveals itself to be blindly narcissistic. Today we find ourselves living in an extremely polarized, extremely unequal, extremely fragmented, and extremely self-centered nation, a fact of which we are all painfully aware. For nearly fifty years, across party lines and with only a few short interruptions most Americans – by a two to one margin or more over the last decade – have said that our country “is on the wrong track.” A recent study by the Pew Research Center revealed that Americans are “broadly pessimistic” about the future, with clear majorities predicting that the gap between rich and poor will widen, that the country will become yet more divided politically, and that the US will decrease in importance on the world stage over the next thirty years. The American Psychological Association reports that “the future of our nation” is a bigger source of stress among average Americans than even their own finances or work.
From “The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again” by Robert D. Putnam