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The U.S. is an empire with dissolving credibility

It’s an open secret that many Americans no longer trust their government. The rise of populism sparked by the MAGA movement and the increased criticism of “mainstream media” that followed it have created an environment of pre-dispositional skepticism in the U.S. With an increase in conspiracy theories and counter-narratives flooding social media sites like Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter), Americans are losing trust in the country’s foundational institutions and the people fronting them. 


With disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s mysterious suicide and the accompanying files about his high-profile friends being released, it only makes sense why 45% of Americans believe he was murdered according to Pew Research. But don’t worry; the institutions with the most to allegedly hide said they found no incriminating evidence about themselves. At what point does the number of deaths of people close to you become suspicious? And what’s one more if it keeps your secrets hidden? 


People are becoming disillusioned with society, and the line between observant and delusional has never been so fine. AP polls have found that over 50% of Americans feel that they are not well represented in Congress. The same poll found that only 16% say that the American democracy is doing a “good job.” At the same time, most Republicans have overlapping ideologies about election fraud; 68% say Biden won the election “due to voter fraud.” Conversely, 93% of Democrats say he won fairly. 


Political division in the United States is only worsening, and the buildup to the 2024 election is arguably the most turbulent in the country’s history. People who already do not trust the system are promoting a candidate who may not even be eligible to be elected. And the faith in Trump has never been so strong from the right. Nevada is hosting both a presidential primary and a caucus. Trump is not on the ballot for the primary, yet he still won; 61% of voters chose “none of these candidates” instead of Nikki Haley. Now imagine a world where write-in Trump beats Biden and is not allowed in office. Think January 6 was bad? 


Counter narratives on geopolitical situations have broken down American’s trust in their institutions even further. The billions of dollars of funding for the proxy wars in Israel and Ukraine have turned many Americans against foreign military involvement and towards a more isolationist approach. Robert Longley explored the United States isolationist history and found that over 60% of Americans oppose troop involvement in Ukraine. He argued that the war on terror and several policy makers have led to a return of American isolationism, citing that many people would rather focus on domestic issues than focus abroad.  


The American public narrative surrounding the Israel conflict has never been so favorable for Palestine throughout the history of the Israeli state, especially amongst young adults. When asked if they thought it was “very important” for the United States to protect Israel, only 14% of 18- to 29-year-olds said it was compared to two-thirds of those 65 or older. Those contrary sentiments are formed due to generational situations; young adults today have only experienced Israel as an oppressor, while young adults in the 1960s saw Israeli’s as oppressed. Some argue that the country designed as a refuge against authoritarianism has become the best representation of “democratic authoritarianism.” 


Just wait until the pro-Russian counter-narrative floods public conversation. Tucker Carlson’s interview with Vladimir Putin is the first contact Putin has had with U.S. media since 2021, pre-Ukraine war. The Kremlin has framed the interview as a way for Russia to tell its side of the story, saying, “When it comes to the countries of the collective West [can] in no way boast of even trying to at least look impartial in terms of coverage.” Carlson is framing the interview as an exploration of free speech. He said, “We are not here because we love Vladimir Putin… We are not encouraging you to agree with what Putin may say in this interview, but we are urging you to watch it.” 


It’s all a big show, and it feels like we are approaching the United States’ story arc finale. But it does not have to be. If and when the current institutions break, it will be our job to rebuild them, but better; more fair, honest, and thoughtful. We must rally around truth, equity, and purity to lead the United States, and the world, in the right direction.  

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About the Contributors
Noah Nelson
Noah Nelson, Editor
I’m the Editor for the Lumen. My major is Sports Management and Leadership with an English Writing minor, and I also compete for the Men’s Golf team.
Gretchen Cortez
Gretchen Cortez, Arts and Entertainment Editor
I'm a 5th year senior from La Crosse Wisconsin. My major is Ethics, Culture, and Society with a focus in...
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    Jerry GrothFeb 20, 2024 at 9:09 am

    Highlights of the world situation and then the summary leaves you with the point of needing to think. So much of our time today we think of one aspect of situations in our part of the world (US vs international) but forget the complexity of life, politics, and interactions. I like how after providing us with the short summary of the current world status he gently urges us to take action.