With numbing regularity, the nation is reminded of its dramatically low unemployment rate. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it is the lowest in 50 years, hovering around 3.8 percent. Maine’s unemployment rate is even more impressive, according to recent reports by the Maine Department of Labor, hovering around 2.9 percent, which many might say is synonymous with “full employment.”

Some are fond of citing low unemployment rates as barometers of the “good life.” Others are quick to point out that “full employment,” treated as an isolated aspect of life, is an insufficient metric of the “good life” (slaves were fully employed).

It is difficult to quarrel with “full employment” as an integral part of noble political proclamations and a call upon a nationalism that seek to make America great again. One can, however, seek to make America great by elevating its arts, promoting the advancement of scientific research and technological developments that yield benefits to humankind, and declaring a crusade against intolerance, illiteracy, poverty, hunger, illness and the inequitable distribution of the nation’s wealth, which is not the product of one person alone.

There is a nationalism that taps into the noble impulses of people and the best in their heritage, and there is a nationalism that manufactures a freight load of irrational impulses, is destructive in its nature and belies the best in that heritage.

What graphically belies low unemployment rates as a barometer of the “good life” is that species of nationalism that threatens the democratic process, cultivates differences in social and cultural values, and issues warnings of the decline of Western civilization, creating a seething cauldron that sparks social division and intolerance.

Making America great again cannot be built upon “culture wars” and “full employment.” There is a larger, spiritual dimension to the story.

Charles Scontras

Cape Elizabeth

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