July 12, 2006 Response to ‘isolated America’ The June 23 Tidings article about Americans being socially isolated was significant. It is a direct result of political and social choices we make, and which reinforce each other. As a cultur

Response to ‘isolated America’

The June 23 Tidings article about Americans being socially isolated was significant. It is a direct result of political and social choices we make, and which reinforce each other.

As a culture we have bought into the hyper-individualistic adolescent boy mentality where everything is an ego contest and self-aggrandizement has become a social norm. We glorify loners, especially the destructive ones. We’ve replaced the real intimacy of face-to-face contact with the fake intimacy of cell phones and the Internet. We work more just to make ends meet but also to acquire more things; both extra work and things keep us from each other.

What began as an admirable effort to protect the rights of the individual has descended into the jingoism of “personal responsibility.” Politicians say, “You don’t need consumer protection, environmental laws, or welfare because you’re tough and independent,” which leads to exploitation and mistrust, while social institutions whither. People who do achieve wealth and influence are deluded into thinking they do it all by themselves, forgetting that roads, police protection and educated citizenry, health care etc. all contribute to the viable society necessary for anyone to succeed. We are tremendously interdependent in ways we can’t even imagine: think about all the steps it takes, starting from raw material, to get this newspaper to you. Out interconnections are infinite.

But we ignore these connections and believe we are going it alone, that we are capable of ensuring our safety by ourselves. We buy guns, drive huge SUVs, keep from our neighbors, become selfish, demanding and paranoid, which makes everyone else withdraw into their own clamshell. A negative feedback loop. The antidote to this malaise is community.

At minimum, community requires two things: equality and stability. But political and economic decisions in the past several years have created great inequality and instability: tax breaks for the wealthy, under funded education, lack of universal health care, elimination of consumer protection, union busting, outsourcing, winking at corporate misconduct which fosters the ethos of making money no matter how vulgar, amoral, and exploitative the method, creating a harsh, cynical atmosphere not conductive to the soft intimacy of personal relations.

Ashlanders can’t disconnect ourselves from the corrupt, unjust society at large, of course, but we can put every effort into being a trusting community. Many Ashlanders have dedicated themselves to shaping responsive, humane city institutions. Being courteous and friendly on the street, getting to know our neighbors are also essential ingredients in a true community. Simply investing ourselves in a certain place and the people who live there goes a long way toward counteracting the prevailing, politically induced isolation Americans feel today.

David Leo Kennedy



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