By Dr. Denise R. Ames
This is a momentous time that we are experiencing. Who can be trusted for wise council? Where are the elders? Elders have something to add to the conversation about what is going on today. I am one elder who feels I have something to say. The following are 12 Insights that I have learned and want to share with you.
Insight #2. We Need a New Narrative
No wonder we are in a state of confusion and anxiety, our national narrative or our national story is untethered to our reality. The story of America as a shining star on the hill is being battered from all sides. The national narrative has been out of step for some time, but the twin shocks of the pandemic and protests has hastened its decline. What kind of narrative do we need?
The old narrative held that Americans would continually prosper through hard work and perseverance to achieve a more prosperous standard of living than their parents. These rising expectations that life will be better for them than previous generations seemed achievable for some in the post-war years, but it has ground to a halt.
Actually, this idea of continuous, linear economic progress has been adapted by the current Progressive Worldview and altered to conform to the current narrative driving the rhetoric about Black Lives Matter and anti-racism. Progressives assert that white Americans have been able to achieve prosperity, but because of racism African Americans have been left behind mired in misery, oppression, and poverty. Not only must Americans root out racism, but since racism is so deeply embedded in the current capitalist system, the whole system needs to be overturned and a new one built on socialist, identity principles.
This Progressive Worldview is gaining traction as many politicians, tech-giant entrepreneurs, educators, academia, and media have jumped on the bandwagon advocating for this new narrative. Even calls to defund the police has gained traction among some unlikely people, for example, it is being moved along by the city council in Minneapolis where George Floyd’s death occurred.
Conservatives, on the other hand, have been caught flat-footed in this escalating push for the progressive narrative to become the established norm. The progressive call for social and economic equity is much catchier than the conservatives’ timid whimper to maintain the status quo and hold on to traditions, freedom, and individual choice. They have failed to articulate a compelling alternative to the sweeping and compelling progressive story.
I can understand why progressives and minorities are disappointed, angry, and uncertain about why this promised prosperity has not met their expectations. But I have long held that our expectations are outdistancing the reality of life in America. Progressives are comparing their “demands” to their own manufactured utopian ideal. Of course, progress among minority groups in the U.S. can never measure up to this ideal. If comparing minority progress to countries around the world, we have done quite well. In my lifetime, I can see considerable progress gained by minorities. But this measurement does not count.
I also see where progress has been negligible, arguably even worse than 50 years ago. This is in the inner-city area of major cities where there is significant poverty and black on black violence, and where a portion (not all) African Americans live. This is the area that needs targeted efforts to improve the lives of people who live there.
So back to the question at the beginning of this blog, what shall the new national narrative be? Instead of a call to remake America into a utopian ideal of equity for all, an unrealistic vision that is bound to disappoint, perhaps a narrative that is based on reality. A narrative that recognizes that humans, through our long million-year human history, have acquired behaviors that hinder us from forming a more-perfect union, but that we at least recognize these human frailties and continue to make improvements in the best ways we can.
We must recognize that our American nation and society are not an unshakeable fortress but can be undone. World history is littered with failed nations, kingdoms, empires, and dynasties that succumbed to instability, corruption, in-fighting, and finally to collapse.
Forging a new national narrative that has ideals to aspire to, but also recognizes human reality is a narrative worth exploring.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.
Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five programs: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.
Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!
Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.
It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.
Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books