Do you want the good news or the bad news first? It’s all pretty bad, but let’s get it over with: the share of Americans who say patriotism and religion are “very important” to them has fallen sharply, as has the number of Americans who value involvement in their community, hard work and having children.
These revelations come courtesy of a new Wall Street Journal-NORC poll, complete with a graph depicting our nation’s nosedive. Some nitty-gritty: in 1998, 70 percent of respondents deemed patriotism to be very important; now, that number is 38 percent. Twenty-five years ago, 62 percent said religion was very important; now only 39 percent do.
If Americans don’t believe in God or country, what do they believe in? Money, for one thing. The Journal reports that the only priority “that has grown in importance in the past quarter-century is money, which was cited as very important by 43 percent in the new survey, up from 31 percent in 1998.”
A country that values money above creator and caring for one another is doomed, right? Not necessarily, or at least not yet. Citizens who value money more than the values that once defined America are doomed. Perhaps not physically (though both religion and volunteer activity are associated with health benefits), but emotionally and spiritually, they’ll be deeply dissatisfied. America’s core values may be fading, but there’s still an ember of influence left that’s worth fanning, as the things that made this country great still have more power to buoy it than the forces pulling it down.
My father cites the sexual revolution as the beginning of the end of American society, and as he was around for it and I was not, I tend to agree with him. As traditional morals went out the window, Tom Wolfe’s “Me Decade” was born. A few more self-centered generations followed, and now here we are. Civic engagement is at an all-time low. Only 58 percent of people responding to the Wall Street Journal poll said “tolerance for others” is very important; four years ago, that number stood at 80 percent.
It’s my impression that a lot of Americans don’t care about their country or their community because they’ve staked no claim in it. The youngest generations have grown up in homogenized comfort, without much to guide their values beyond public school propaganda and TikTok influencers. Their parents, too, were oftentimes reared without religion, an idea of place or obligation to anything but Me. Without a sense of duty to a value system, or the love of true, good, and beautiful things guiding them, why would Americans value religion, feel patriotic, or want to work hard and contribute to their communities?
In its report on the new polling numbers, the Journal interviewed Kevin Williams, a thirty-three-year-old black man from Oregon who volunteers and coaches youth sports, among other things. His theory is that “patriotism is declining as a civic value in tandem with rising individualism, a sense of entitlement among many people and a decline in community involvement, possibly because of people focusing on their own racial or cultural backgrounds rather than what Americans have in common.”
And Kevin Williams is why I have hope. As much as woke ideology — the current poison urging people ever more insistently to exalt themselves — seems unstoppable at times, seeking satisfaction anywhere but in the timeless good things of life is futile. We see proof of this now, as Americans are the unhappiest they’ve been in fifty years — and they’re growing even more miserable.
It seems, though, like most people don’t actually want to fight about race or pronouns; another question on the Journal poll found that “Overall, 63 percent of people… said that companies shouldn’t take public stands on social and political issues.” It stands to reason, then, that it’s only a matter of time before the woke hypnosis wears off and a cultural shift takes hold.
It’s up to us, the Kevin Williamses of the world, to hurry the shift along. We must lead by example and help the miserable ones see the light: invite your friends to church, join a club or volunteer organization, proudly display an American flag on your porch, talk to your kids about the Constitution, instill in them a selfless spirit, go out of your way to support events and institutions that celebrate what we have in common rather than what divides and destroys, and bug your friends and family to participate, too. They’ll be glad they did.