America is sick. Just about everybody recognizes it, and we didn’t need two more mass shootings to convince anybody of anything. Most Americans think the country is on the wrong track, despite a roaring economy. You can blame Donald Trump, but Americans have been unsatisfied with the country’s direction for most of the last two decades.
Amazingly, given the level of partisan animosity in this country, both sides see the problem much the same way: The country is disordered by selfishness, alienation, variously defined bigotries, inequality, and a lack of social solidarity. Even more bizarre, both the Right and the Left have very similar solutions in mind.
Both are very wrong. …
… The vocabulary they use is different, but the underlying indictment of the status quo is remarkably similar. Nationalism is an obscenity to the Left, and socialism is anathema for the Right, but a nationalizing or centralizing spirit suffuses both sides. …
… Where everyone loses me is with the idea that the solution to these maladies can be found in Washington or in nationalizing movements of the Right or the Left.
One of the reasons social media is so toxic is that it is a nationalizing force; it makes us feel as if strangers thousands of miles away are neighbors — and we get mad when neighbors are living the “wrong” way. Cable news does the same thing, just with better production values, plucking anecdotal stories and making them part of a “national conversation.” The problem is that there’s no such thing as an actual national conversation.
What we need are communities, and the idea of national community is a myth. Conversation is done face to face and person to person, and so is community.