My middle son is a car guy. I have no idea how that happened since there are no other car guys in the family, on either side. It started with his first car. I told him and his older brother that I would buy their first cars as soon as they could make the payments (that’s what my father told me). They both saved up their money and bought their own cars without my help.
Matthew quickly decided he needed to customize his. Since we lived in the ’burbs on a cul-de-sac, there was not a garage where he could work, so he set up shop on the street in front of our house. Many nights, late into the night, he could be found working on his car.
As he got older and had more resources, he bought and traded for other cars. Eventually, I helped him purchase a classic ’60s era Chevrolet that someone else already had customized. It was a nice-looking car. But a car guy has to work on his car, so it wasn’t long before changes occurred.
That was years ago. Matthew has his own home now, complete with a large garage/shop for working on cars. In that shop, you will find all the parts to that Chevy, waiting to be put back together. Much work is required to make it what it used to be. I have no doubt he can do it, but too many other car projects take precedence.
The journey of Matthew’s bright yellow Chevrolet provides a parable of what has happened to our country. The U.S. was put in the hands of a president who dismantled it. It wasn’t a perfect nation, but it was very good, or dare we say, great. The car now consists of a frame, dismantled fenders and hoods, and bumpers — but one day they will be put back together along with a new engine.
In the same way, our country has been dismantled. Instead of fenders and hoods scattered around a shop, the stripped-down parts are just as real.
A combination of our response to the coronavirus, racial violence and clashes with the police over the summer, and attitudes about the president have created a vortex that is destroying our country’s reputation around the world. Confidence that the U.S. president will do the right thing fell from above 90% to less than 20% among Europeans between the previous and current president.
“Our leadership in the world has suffered a damaging blow.”
Our leadership in the world has suffered a damaging blow, and it will take time and extreme effort to get it back. The fact that it only took four years exposes how atrocious we have been in the eyes of the world.
Think about the pandemic and how it exposed who we have become. No country in the world should have been more prepared for a viral outbreak. Our leaders had a detailed plan provided by previous administrations that outlined how to respond, but it was either discarded or ignored. We had the world’s leading doctors and world-renowned organizations and facilities to lead us through the pandemic. Yet no country, even third-world countries, was hit harder and suffered greater losses. The world watched it happen.
Building on the successes of World War II, the U.S. has spent decades developing strong alliances with other countries. The creation of the United Nations, signing the NATO agreement and other international treaties have allowed our country to enjoy strong relationships with many other powerful nations.
“Over the past four years, our president has verbally insulted every one of our allies.”
Over the past four years, our president has verbally insulted every one of our allies, calling them names that most of us were taught not to say by our parents. It seems the only world leaders he admires and praises are those who are not our allies and are known for their autocratic leadership.
We are now in a position that if we did come under attack and needed help for some reason, there’s no guarantee our allies would show up. It’s also true that if one of our former allies was in trouble, we have to ask, “Would we be there to help?” Our president has made it clear we wouldn’t be there unless it was a benefit for us.
If it weren’t for the 350,000-plus deaths from the virus, we could make a case that the loss of trust in our country has been the most troubling casualty we have experienced. Years of lying and ignoring problems have resulted in people not having any confidence in what our leaders say. A high percentage of what the president says is not true, much of it so blatantly false that it’s hard to believe an intelligent person made the statement. For example, suggesting ingesting bleach to combat COVID.
“Years of lying and ignoring problems have resulted in people not having any confidence in what our leaders say.”
One of the most dangerous areas for a lack of trust is with the vaccine needed to end the pandemic. I’m somewhat biased on this subject. Speaking as one who was born a few years too early for the polio vaccine and had to spend my entire life in a wheelchair, I don’t understand why anyone would not take it. People are refusing the vaccine because of a lack of trust. They don’t trust the vaccine makers, they don’t trust the government agencies who issue approval, they don’t trust anyone.
This one is baffling to me. The president staked his entire approach to defeating the pandemic on a rapid development of a vaccine. It arrived in record time, but he spent so much time undermining everyone involved that people don’t trust the vaccine. It’s like advocating for gun rights and then shooting yourself in the foot to make people afraid of guns.
I worked with a man for 10 years who frequently went out of his to show kindness to me and my unique physical needs. He’s kind of a gruff fellow, and we joked with one another, but I saw nothing but kindness in the way he treated others. I hadn’t seen him for several years, but he showed up earlier last year on Facebook and sent a friend request.
As the election drew close, he began to make comments on political posts I made, expressing his disagreement. That disagreement quickly changed, and he began to say ugly, personal things. I tried to engage him in conversation, but it always ended with an accusation about my intelligence. It got so bad that I had to block him. I could speak of similar experiences with others, some for whom I was their pastor years ago, and even a few family members.
“These are people who always have been known as kind and gentle, showing respect to others but are mean on social media.”
These are people who always have been known as kind and gentle, showing respect to others but are mean on social media. This kind of thing is a frequent occurrence on social media sites, and it even happens in public confrontations. I’m not saying meanness was unheard of in the past, but I do suggest it never was this prevalent. We’ve always known mean people. But I’m talking about those who have a history of kindness yet, for some reason say extremely cruel malicious things on social media.
I don’t think the reason behind this meanness is a mystery. Our president continually makes public statements calling people childish names and nasty remarks. He visually mocked a disabled reporter’s malady and has derogatory nicknames for everyone who disagrees with him. In addition, he praises those who commit harmful acts that are in line with his wishes. I live in Texas, a place that has a reputation of having kind people, but that’s no longer true.
Now that I have built a case that America is not a great country any longer, what are we to do? It’s time to roll up our sleeves and make some changes. With the election of a new president, we are off to a good start. He might not have been your preferred candidate (he wasn’t mine either) but he is a vast improvement and might be the ideal person to lead us back to greatness.
Further, I suggest we come up with a slogan that can rally the troops and keep us focused on the goal of returning to the status of being a great country. It might be shocking to you, but I suggest our slogan should be, “Make America Great Again.” It’s catchy, familiar, easy to remember, and captures the purpose of the movement.
Of course, it will take more than a catchy slogan and colorful hats. I suggest we proceed in the reverse order of the way I presented the problem. First, something each of us can contribute is to show kindness to one another. Start with social media, then spread to those you contact in your daily life. It would be nice to be out and about without feeling judged and criticized and not trying to figure out if your neighbor is a Democrat or Republican.
Terry Austin says from his first day of life he was taught to love the church. He has lived out that passion in various ways as a pastor, church consultant, author and critic. He is currently a full-time writer and book publisher and actively engaged with house churches.