Does America today have a serious problem on its hands?
Polling in recent years suggests that this is the one question a majority of Americans will consistently answer “yes” to. It appears we finally agree on something!
How might you personally define our biggest problem?
Here’s where things begin to fall apart. In an open-ended question of Americans such as this, we can get almost as many different answers as there are, well, individual Americans.
So how about you? How would you answer the question of “what is America’s #1 problem today?”
If you can come up with an answer to that, I’d be especially interested in hearing what you think is the “story behind this problem.” What story might best explain your answer? The importance of a story in problem-solving is that stories have endings. And stories can be changed to create happier endings.
Here’s what I have in mind for my own answer, and my own “story behind the problem.”
America’s #1 problem today, in my humble opinion, bears 3 key words: misinformation, miscommunication, misunderstanding. If I had to boil the problem down to only one word, it might well be “messaging.”
Many Americans might nod their heads in at least partial agreement here, but the story most would tell might be one that is difficult to change in ways that create happier endings. Social media or identity politics or polarized tribes or any number of other stories are already in circulation within what we often call public discourse.
The problem with inside stories is that they look for trees from inside the forest. That limits us to seeing only the trees in front of us, which then blocks our view of the much larger forest….or in this case the much larger problem.
The benefit of an outside story is that it helps us see a much larger picture, problem, and happier ending when resolved. Which is why my own story of America today borrows from the ancient Hebrew people and their Bible’s book of Genesis, chapter 11, verses 1-9. If you happen to own a Bible, feel free to look it up before you read further below.
The Tower of Babel.
The problem story here is quite obvious to all who read it. Building a great tower upon which to display the builder’s own name is a universal story that includes every time and place, including today’s America. Our own greatness provides the story of our own greatest problem. Which, as was and still is true in the story of Babel: “messaging.” Misinformation. Miscommunication. Misunderstanding. Any people seeking to be great is the architect of its own greatest problem. And if we place ourselves in the story of Genesis 11:1-9, we may be able to see something we’re otherwise blinded from seeing.
A happier ending.
A practical solution.
So let me the end the way I began. Does America today have a sensible solution on its hands? What might that be? And what story might we tell that can end well for tomorrow’s America?