Everything Is (Almost) Awesome

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A software engineer from Clarkston, Michigan, emails to say my profession deserves blame for allowing Democrats and Republicans to circle the drain with the nation’s future. His name is Ken Sebastian, and he lives about 30 miles south of Flint, where this conversation began.

There is little chance the duopoly will reform government. One party is willing to burn the system to the ground and openly rooting for the government to fail. The party in question has little to no motivation for solving common problems like fixing roads or lead in water. It seems to me doing nothing achieves said parties goals of shrinking government by making the government look incompetent and unworthy of money or power.  I would like to point out I used to vote for the party in question.

To be fair, the other party wrecked the relationship with Congress when the Affordability Care Act was being debated. The party not in power was told their votes were not needed, since enough votes to pass the law were held by the party in power. Not surprisingly, after losing power, the party opposed to the ACA spent its time doing the opposite or saying the opposite of their adversaries. Based on this, both parties should go to etiquette school and quit acting like preschoolers.

Then he held up a mirror to me.

The biggest problem I see is the vast polarization of the media. The media has lost the public’s trust …. The result of this mistrust is people filling in the blanks on their own or believing all manner of nonsense because there seems to be no reliable place to get facts and facts only.

I have read many articles that can be quite condescending toward people who vote for Trump. Journalists need to remember what I learned in college English 101. When writing a piece to convince someone of a position, don’t belittle their beliefs. You’ve lost them at that point and they won’t read further. You’ve lost credibility.

The reason I say the duopoly won’t reform government is one party wants to burn it to the ground, and while it’s burning, the media doesn’t have much credibility any longer, at least with a good faction of the American people. The rest are left dazed and confused about what to do about our common problems as Americans, and those problems are increasingly not being solved.

He ended on an optimistic, if ambiguous, note.

I also have tried to quell my angst for the future. However, I do fear I may not be able to retire due to healthcare costs, like my father in law. And the talk of dismantling of Social Security, a system I have paid into my entire life, is a bit scary. As true to my training by the University of Michigan to be an engineer, I have a backup plan. I’m considering other countries to retire to if things are not mended here at home. I just hope the United States rights itself. After all, our system was designed to be a reflection of the people, and from what I can tell that, reflection isn’t pretty, but I have faith we will right the ship.

Another reader, Matthew, suggested that Trump is a symptom of a generational problem that will be fixed in time. Matthew shares my admiration of millennials, young Americans shaped by economic, technological, and demographic change in ways that could make them the next greatest generation. (I call them Generation Disruption.) “America can’t be saved by a strong man,” Matthew emailed, “and won’t be saved by the generation that got us here (the Baby Boomers, which I am a member of).”

But America will be saved, and it will be by the generation just now coming of age. They are the best generation we have ever raised. Lacking any hidden prejudices, open to all ideas, embracing technology and genuinely caring for their friends, the environment, the poor, and other societies. In ten years or so they will start having a significant impact. We can muddle along till then. I raised three of these kids and I know them and their friends. They are connected and honest like no generation America has seen. Just wait. It will be awesome.