What’s Happened to America’s Morality?

Published: December 29, 2023

By Jim Lichtman
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What a way to end the year.

The erosion of America’s moral integrity is overwhelming.

Entitlement has overtaken personal responsibility.

Meanness has overwhelmed kindness.

And hatred has crushed tolerance.

Many of today’s “leaders” place self-interest above public interest. They role model viciousness and lies instead of kindness and facts. They believe that the best way to influence the public forum (and raise their profile) is to push out offensive social media posts. And now, many . . . far too many, have adopted that same self-serving attitude. Meanness and conspiracy seem to have become the rule instead of the exception.

According to Gallup’s “Values and Beliefs” poll last year, “A record-high 50% of Americans rate the overall state of moral values in the U.S. as ‘poor,’ and another 37% say it is ‘only fair.’ Just 1% think the state of moral values is ‘excellent’ and 12% ‘good.’”

When asked, “In your view, what is the most important problem with the state of moral values in the country today,” lack of “consideration of others” is the top issue, followed by racism and discrimination, “lack of faith or religion,” “lack of morals” and “sense of entitlement.”

We used to revere citizens who demonstrated moral courage . . . the courage to stand up for another, tell the truth, take responsibility, and accept others who our different from us. However, the moral courage it took patriot Patrick Henry to stand up for principle—“Give me liberty, or give me death”—has, at least in Washington, become extinct.

Journalist David Brooks observed that while social media, isolation, increased cultural diversity, and economic inequality play a part, Brooks points to one fundamental problem: “We inhabit a society in which people are no longer trained in how to treat others with kindness and consideration. Our society has become one in which people feel licensed to give their selfishness free rein.”

In every talk I have given to corporations, associations, colleges, and universities, at least one individual would approach me afterward and point to a lack of consideration. Ethical values—trustworthiness, fairness, responsibility, respect, compassion, civic virtue, and citizenship—are the values that helped build this nation.

If we’re ever to get out of our mess we’ve created, we need to re-acquaint, re-educate ourselves with how we treat each other.

We all want respect.

We all need help at one time or another.

We all want to be raised up rather than pushed down.

The greatest gift we can give to each other for the new year is a shared sense of humanity: compassion, respect, and kindness.


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