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November 17, 2013

Nations offer lessons in unity

Washington recently went through one of their routine heart-wrenching political meltdowns. This time, we rolled our eyes and the stock market shrugged.

People have become cynical and frustrated with our leaders. Cynicism seems to stem from a suspicion that those in leadership positions are self-serving at best, and above the law at worst. I understand the prevailing frustration, but I remain optimistic nonetheless.

We once viewed ourselves as the United States. We have since become groups divided based on our personal self-interests. This schism has been widened by the global financial meltdown. Job and income loss was not evenly dispersed, but instead was concentrated on working-class families with lower levels of education, on the young and on those nearing retirement. Many others suffered, too, except perhaps those with the resources and ability to ride out an epic financial storm. These 1 percent actually managed to do quite well.

This lack of a shared experience is at the root of our division. It need not be that way. We seemed to have made a choice. We point a finger and sometimes a fist at others without having much of a dialog about how we can work together.

I marvel at a few countries that made it through the Great Recession without the same level of displacement and division we faced here.

Australia fared well. They have the advantage of a strong and proud national identity, united around a rugged, self-reliant spirit. One can imagine how these ingredients would allow them to avoid some of the trappings we suffered here.

Canada, too, did reasonably well, even though their population is not as homogeneous as that of Australia. Canada’s parliamentary system allows them to execute fiscal policy much more effectively than our Congress can muster here even under the best of circumstances.

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