WHEN AMERICA’S FOUNDING Fathers enshrined freedom of the press in the First Amendment, they could not have anticipated a world in which citizens would construct an alternative reality based on misinformation.

The result, said Steve Almond, has been an erosion of faith in our fourth estate. Citizens begin to reject science in favor of conspiracy theories that are emotionally satisfying, but false.

We seem to be trapped in an era of fake news. Too many stories we hear are fraudulent, by either design or negligence, wrote Almond. Many stories are frivolous, but we fall under the sway of those stories and many are intended to sow discord.

Almond is the author of “Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country.” An excerpt from the book appears in the April issue of The Rotarian.

Almond believes that our national fate is a shared destiny and our personal plights are not signs of weakness, but are opportunities for constructive action and occasions for mercy.

In the age before social media and 24/7 news networks, it was not uncommon for adults of all points of view to crowd into a room to watch television as major news events happened. Despite our differences, we were all part of the story.

Almond is sad to report that when it comes to our political discourse today, there is no such consensus. Not only do Americans live by different creeds, but we don’t even agree on basic facts. We’re no longer living in the same narrative.

We live in an age in which the party out of power doesn’t just oppose the party in power, it proudly sabotages the government and clearly wants it to fail for selfish political gain. That’s pitiful.

The reason Americans spend so little time talking about how to solve mutual problems and so much time ranting against our perceived enemies is that we’ve placed our faith in slanted stories published for the sole purpose of furthering a cause.

We gravitate to news that reinforces our existing beliefs. We’re wired to believe that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Americans have always, to some extent, regarded politics that way.

What has changed over the past half-century is that the media and political classes now function to intensify this bad story, contends Almond. When it comes to politics and government, we either win or we lose. We reject reaching a consensus.

This mindset has led to what social scientists call negative partisanship: an ingrained hostility for the opposing party that has almost nothing to do with ideology. It’s a kind of tribal identity, the same impulse that leads us to root against a rival team.

This encourages politicians to engage in confrontation rather than cooperation with the other party, which deepens partisan rancor. Rather than thinking about the common good, we have come to regard our political system as a zero-sum game.

For our side to win, the other side has to lose. We need to recognize that politics cuts deeper than “Red vs. Blue.” Governance is about the art of compromise, about working with the other side to find solutions for all.

Conservatives are people who believe their fellow Americans should fend for themselves and they oppose government intervention, until they need help from the government. Liberals and progressives tend to believe most people can’t fend for themselves and government intervention is the answer to all social problems.

When we succumb to these bad stories, as Almond calls them, we do little more than stoke our rage and starve our common sense. As this happens, we usher in an era of perpetual dread and decline.



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AS MORE Americans get older and live longer, who is going to provide care for them? As they age, they will require more long-term care. The Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that 52% of Americans turning 65 today will develop a disability requiring long-term care services.

It’s a fact. Some 10,000 baby boomers reach the age of 65 each day. By 2050, 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older, projected the Congressional Budget Office. The number was just 12% in 2000.

As we live longer, we will require more long-term care including services such as getting in and out of bed, bathing, dressing, cooking and managing the very medications that help keep us alive longer.

A growing number of the direct care workers will be immigrants. They will be home health aides, personal care aides and nursing assistants.

Many of those workers will be from Mexico, the Philippines, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Industry sources say we’ll need at least 1 million more immigrants to fill the demand.

Health care experts predict the cost of this care will keep increasing. As a result, many insurance companies are declining to provide long-term care insurance. Keep these facts in mind as our political leaders consider and debate immigration issues and limits.

We might find it preferable to provide a path to legal status for current “Dreamers,” immigrants who reside here now, who were brought here illegally as children. Might it be better to keep these people who have already assimilated and moved through the school system than to deport them and bring in others?