One of the things that bothers me the most about American society today is a pervasive “I don’t care” attitude. It seems that most people today really don’t care about the things our country used to stand for - patriotism, accountability and good grammar among those that stand out most.

Patriotism used to be so important to our citizens that it was never in question. People from: up when the Pledge of Allegiance was recited; now, many schools don’t allow a recitation of the pledge. Similarly, people stood up when the flag passed by in a parade or color guard. Now, for the most part, only elderly people still honor our flag that way. Everyone else just doesn’t care.

Many companies and private citizens who display our flag no longer follow the rules of care. Even at the building at which I work, the flag is left up in rain, sleet and snow. Its white stripes are a dingy gray, its ends worn and tattered. I stopped and looked at the mast the other day. They have moved the tether up so far that someone would actually have to stand on a ladder to change the flag. I think it’s simply shameful, but the powers that be obviously don’t care.

At my old job, they treated the flag a little better — it was put up and taken down every day, flown at half mast when appropriate, removed during inclement weather — but even then, it was wadded up in a box while it rested instead of folded appropriately. It was allowed to touch the ground, even though, traditionally, that is a no-no. When I brought it up to facilities, I got shrugs and blank stares. They really didn’t care one way or the other.

Even at my alma mater, The University of Oklahoma, a lack of patriotism is sadly evident. At sports events, many people don’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem. Most talk right through it. What’s worse, many people who do sing along have replaced the words “home of the brave” with “home of the Sooners.” Some people who still believe in God and Country are appalled by this behavior, but for the most part, people are pretty laissez-faire about it. It’s the football game that matters, as for the patriotic trappings, well…they really don’t care.

Personal accountability has been tossed out with the trash along with patriotism. People just don’t seem to take pride in their work anymore, and if they can blame a personal error on someone else, they will do it in a flash. Similarly, many parents, when confronted with their children’s bad behavior in school, back up their child rather than the teacher, ostensibly pulling the rug out from under any hope that their kids will learn to take responsibility for their own actions. They don’t seem to care that their son or daughter is a teacher’s nightmare, nor do they seem to care that their child isn’t learning anything about discipline or a positive work ethic.

As a result, “half assing” work assignments has become the norm in the corporate world. Some companies are built on the foundation that mediocrity is a way of life, and sadly,from: some of these companies still do well. Why? Because they’re competing against other companies who half ass things. (Great…I’ve used the word “ass” twice now. Let the porn spam comments begin!) People with good work ethics come into these environments believing they can affect change for the better, but what usually happens is that they either quit in frustration or are fired for rocking the boat. (Ask the superintendent of Oklahoma City schools who was just railroaded out of his job, because over the past six months, he’s fired several people who weren’t doing a good job. This was exactly what the school board wanted him to do, but when it became apparent that no one was safe from his scrutiny, they decided to protect their own asses instead. [There’s that word again!] I guess they decided that they didn’t care as much about reforming the school system as they thought they did.)

Finally, Americans don’t seem to care about our own native tongue. As a student of grammar and linguistics, I’m fully aware that, through linguistic shifting and rubbing, languages evolve over time. If they didn’t, we’d all still be speaking Sanskrit. I’m also from: that every language in the world is weaker than its predecessor. Each language offshoot is more disordered than its parent and has less power of description. Modern English, at its best, is nothing but a series of labels attached to ideas and objects — the words have no intrensic meaning of their own. That said, our language has always been very ordered. You could take any sentence and diagram it, no matter how complex it was. Today’s English is becoming dirtier and dirtier. Just try to diagram the sentence, “Get a new TV for free!” It can’t be done.

When I was a graduate assistant at OU, one of my greatest disappointments was when I was told, “Don’t worry about a student’s grammar; focus only on content.” (Frankly, I couldn’t do it. My students were taught correct grammar and punctuation.) Just knowing that the administrators didn’t care about grammar hurt. It was even sadder to learn that their opinion that grammar didn’t matter was shared by almost every major university in the country. It’s no surprise that our language has degraded so quickly since university English departments adopted this “We don’t care” attitude.

I believe that our country’s downfall will be a result of our lack of passion for excellence in all we do. “I don’t care” will, eventually, drive us down the path of the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire and other great societies that fell. To survive it, we must adopt an “I DO care” attitude. And I don’t just mean a few of us — I mean all of us. Parents must be good role models for our children and demand only the best from them, teachers must be allowed to teach and grade on the things that matter and the rest of us must strive to achieve to the maximum of our abilities. If the majority begins to show that it DOES care, the minority will, for the most part, follow suit. It’s up to each of us to take a stand for excellence!

So, ask yourself…do you care?