June 10, 2023

Is It Unpatriotic to Feel Hopeless?

By Mary Keyes Rogers | June 11, 2022

I’ve written in this space for more than six years, sharing my love for this country, its constitution, and the bold vision of our founding fathers. Today, I join the voices worldwide and in our own northern Michigan communities in asking the resounding and confounding question, “What happened to America?”

I also ponder different questions with fear and trepidation: “Do I believe we will ever address our long-standing problems? Is there a better future ahead for the people of America?”

Following the insanity of recent mass shootings, my love affair with America and our system of government is shaken. But more disturbing is my feeling of hopelessness. I now believe we are headed toward a dark future. So, can I still call myself a patriot?

What is hope but a belief that things can and will get better? My personal patriotism has been profoundly dependent on and supported by hope. Regardless of party politics, I’ve remained hopeful that America has the desire, competence, and ability to recognize when the country is off course, then take meaningful and impactful action. There was comfort in thinking that historians would look back on these times as an outlier era of things gone wrong before everyone came to their senses and the government returned to its original mission of serving the people.

My hopelessness was not born from the senseless shootings themselves but from Americans’ acceptance of the fact that nothing would change to prevent this from happening again. We have become shameless in our complacency.

Gun violence will not change, period. Personal activism has proven ineffective. Instead, our institutions must make bold moves to fix what is wrong, and nobody sees that as a likely outcome.

Over time, Americans have come to accept the stream of ridiculous, yet unaddressed crisis points because they have seen what happens repeatedly: nothing. Maybe some talk, but rarely any action or change. Americans are asking, “What happened to this country?” We hardly know where to begin in citing the source of our troubles.

Any discussion of gun violence becomes lost in a tangle of causes to which we can shift the blame. America’s problems are so long ignored and intermingled that we can no longer find the original source. To address gun violence, we need hip boots to trudge through mental health issues, the high cost of prescription drugs and mental health treatment, bullying in schools, the impact of social media on teens, PTSD, depression and anxiety in teens, financially stressed families, economic inequality, inflation, powerful gun lobbyists, campaign reform…and the list goes on.

When will our leaders get anything done? We watch as these cans get kicked farther down the road. How many years will go by until healthcare works for all? When will working families have access to high-quality childcare? When will the tech giants be held accountable for the social impact of their products? When? When? When?

Americans accepted many infringements on our freedoms in response to the terrorism of 9/11. We swiftly created the Department of Homeland Security, which has repeatedly pointed to domestic terrorism as the greatest threat to our public safety. Unfortunately, their findings have fallen on deaf ears as the solutions may impede our freedoms or lessen an industry’s profits.

But, when the actual cost of doing nothing about our problems is more murdered children or families declaring bankruptcy due to medical emergencies or more suicides, how can we justify this broken system?

I am not alone in my frustration that our federal government has become thoroughly dysfunctional on every issue of importance, from gun violence to education to healthcare. As a result, our citizens bear the weight of crushing anxiety and stress, which I believe is because we have no sense of hope, no belief that we have the best and brightest leaders hard at work on creating solutions and putting them into action.

I have lost faith that our elected leaders will act, leading to positive change. The political divide is too deep, the lobbyists too powerful, and the will appears to be lost.

Mary Keyes Rogers, a Traverse City resident of more than 20 years, hosted the daily talk radio show Mary in the Morning, launched Marigold Women in Business, and has held executive positions in many civic and business leaders' local, regional, and national organizations.


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