Solutions – that's the tough part. We're on, hopefully, the tail end of a deep recession. We've been living beyond our means and there is a sense that not all of our politicians have been stand-up guys and gals.
So what IS the fix?
"We ought to fire all the politicians and get new ones," says Pennsylvania Republican Chris Wesling.
Distrust in politicians is in our DNA. But today, says Republican consultant Rich Galen, things are different. “Now you've got an entire population, on the entire continuum, from left to right, including that gigantic center that looks across the political landscape and sees nobody that they like, nobody that they trust and nobody frankly that they want to follow."
Still, at the Latrobe/Gateway football game in western Pennsylvania, there were some still willing to give politicians a chance. The president, after all, has a 55 percent approval rating. The fix for some – is Mr. Obama.
"He's swimming against the current, you know, and he's got a lot of energy and he's got a lot of a battle," says Stanley Zimmerman, an independent. At the Community of Reconciliation Church in Pittsburgh, the fix is about hope too – and about redirecting our moral compass.
"There's no question in my mind the moral authority in this country is capitalism and narcissism," says Pastor Denise Mason, a Democrat. "It’s me and how much. ... That's the basis upon which most of us make our decisions."
Dolan Vogle, a Republican, shares the same sentiment. "It's a very me, me, me attitude," she says. "I'm at fault because I give to my kids all the time."
Carl Vogle likens social harmony to a football team. "Everybody's got to pull their weight and once you do that you have a winning team. Same thing with the government and with America. Everybody works hard, we're going to get there."
December 15, 1791 – On that day the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, sowing the seeds for an ongoing and still raging debate about the right to be free to bear arms vs. the right to be free of violence.
Here’s the exact wording:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
We went to western Pennsylvania, where hunting is popular, and to Baltimore, Maryland, where it isn’t, to understand better the cultural gap that divides the two sides.
Baltimore, Maryland – So far this year more than 300 people have been shot. Just last week six people died from gunfire. Baltimore is one of more than 450 small and large cities that have joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an effort to keep guns away from criminals.
Baltimore also has instituted “Safe Streets,” a program that aims to reduce shootings by putting community members onto the streets at night to mediate disputes that could lead to violence.
Dante Barksdale is one of those community members. An ex-con, Barksdale says “Safe Streets” gets at the heart of gun violence. “I don’t know about people loving guns,” he said, “but I know about people using guns to protect themselves or protect their image. … And this is why usually people use guns to resolve conflict. It’s because they feel like, you know, someone is stepping on their macho image [but] … being macho, being the biggest man with the biggest gun, the man who has all these people fearing him, this is not being a man. This is ignorance.”
If the American mood these days were a movie line, it just might be the one shouted out by the character Howard Beale in the 1976 film, “Network”:
“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
We went to western Pennsylvania, Westmoreland County, to talk to voters about the anger that has spread from town halls to radio talk shows and to the floor of Congress. Last November the county went for John McCain over Barack Obama
It was in Westmoreland county that Obama campaigned just days before the April 2008 Democratic primary, saying that small-town Pennsylvania voters are “bitter” over their economic situation, and that they “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”