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Reader's View: Society, democracy need us to do better

Our neighbors may be people who’ll give the shirt off their backs to friends and family and cry when their dog dies, but they may also join a fascist personality cult dressed in red, white, and blue.

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President John F. Kennedy famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” How quaint. Pay your fair share of taxes? That’s for dummies. Get vaccinated for the common good? Enough with the jokes already. Nowadays it’s better to quote Margaret Thatcher: “Who is society? There is no such thing,” she said.

Maybe our society coming unglued shouldn’t surprise us. Actually, it’s surprising it’s held together as long as it has, considering we have an economic system pitting all against all in cut-throat competition, and a concentration of wealth is fostering a concentration of political power.

In the 1980s, the ascendency of what confusingly was called “neoliberalism” coincided with the rise of trash TV and hate radio, and their macho anti-intellectualism had a coarsening and dumbing-down effect on our culture. Traditional media may now seem like bastions of truth compared to the wacky world of the internet, but their falsehoods concerning war and power and other issues contributed to an undermining of trust in general. Then came the post-truth era of Fox News and the rest, when many retreated into their media silos. Spare them your fact-checkers and your history and your science. Freedom!

People in general seem to possess inherent compassion and a tendency for cooperation, but we have been divided and conquered. Our neighbors may be people who’ll give the shirt off their backs to friends and family and cry when their dog dies, but they may also join a fascist personality cult dressed in red, white, and blue. They may love their children but hate the poor and the homeless and anyone of a different creed or skin color or sexual orientation. Our society and democracy depend on us doing better.

David A. Sorensen

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Duluth


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