What impression might a foreigner visiting from another planet gather from the American political process? A culture that prizes leaders who can exalt themselves and their accomplishments the best while simultaneously trying to make the other leader out to be the biggest liar. They might conclude that whoever packs the most virulent attack against the other is the one who this culture deems worthy as their national leader.
“Long lives the king who can strike down his fellow citizen the best!”
Using the axiom of reviewing someone’s checkbook to determine what they value, what would such analysis conclude from an observation of American spending on political campaigns?
The money being spent on elections seems to be out of control, now pushing two billion US Dollars. What does this expenditure really represent? Consider the purpose and content of political advertisements—mostly sardonic attacks on one another.
$2 billion primarily being used as attack weaponry against each other.
Granted, our nation is deeply divided along many fault lines, but throwing massive amounts cash at a political ideology and their representative candidates will not solve the problem. Furthermore, the flow of cash is so plentiful; it drives the price of normal advertising space up to 14 times the normal cost. Is this worth it? What does this say about America during a time with so many people hurting from a poor economy? But the campaigns and PACs are happy to spend the hefty premium for just a little bit of message space to inundate the few swing voters. Is there something wrong here?
What does this reflect about our society?
Now, look at this through the lens of long term human development and how we are culturally shaping the next generation. Who we cultivate today becomes our nation tomorrow. So my question becomes—what does this mean for our future? By our actions as a society, what is being modeled for the Millennial Generation? What are the values we are espousing as Americans through this behavior?
We viciously attack one another. A $2 billion cock fight?
Yet it works! We hear about it all the time from the experts: the posturing, the attacking, the “exuding confidence,” the twisting, the window dressing, and trying to catch each other in lies. It’s what you have to do to win, and apparently, it’s true. We esteem this process with its tactics and strategies through our checkbooks, our national attention, and our votes.
We get what we ask for. But is this what we want?
Consider what we are tacitly teaching our future leaders, today’s teens and young adults, about leadership. Kids tend to model what their parents do. Similarly, young adults will tend to model those leaders before them. They’ll just follow suit and we’ll just get more of the same in the future.
However, some twentysomethings are asking questions. They know something is amiss, yet they don’t always know what to do. An insightful 22-year-old I mentor explained his dilemma of struggling to formulate a moral-compass while observing the generations before him. “It’s hard to know the difference between right and wrong, I want to do what’s right,” he told me, “yet I see such hypocrisy.” He continued, “I’m afraid if I do what they do to be successful, then it will change me and I’ll become part of the thing I hate.”
Are we truly leading the young generation? How are we teaching our young to lead their families, organizations, businesses, and government?
Many would say the ends justify the means. Perhaps that’s the problem. Let’s look at the big picture. There’s a whole young generation trying to make sense of right and wrong and who they are in a very convoluted world.
Forget aliens, what impression are we leaving on our next generation?
$2 billion dollars while so many are unemployed and hurting? Something is not right here and perhaps the young are beginning to see.
Are we stopping to think?