I am ashamed to be an American because too many of the "so-called" leaders of this great experiment in democracy have proven to the world that they don't have a clue about what it means to be responsible to others.
The founders of this country understood that they were laying the foundation for a model that had the potential to offer people a spectrum of freedoms. They knew that freedom implied great responsibility and that in order for the dream to be realized that integrity and common sense would have to prevail.
Sadly, too many of our elected leaders have shown a callous disregard for our collective legacy. Societies that do not learn from their mistakes and that do not cultivate respect for their history crumble and die. The United States is now crumbling and it is not clear if we will survive.
I am ashamed to be an American because the people we have elected to lead this country have allowed the concept of leadership to become perverted and they have turned their power inward for personal gain, ego enhancement and brinksmanship.
Leadership, especially at the national level, requires the ability to step back and look at the big picture and to distance one's ego from the battles of the day. Few of our leaders are able to meet that definition of leadership.
It has become a political fact in the U.S. that the more power that elected officials have the less they are able to display leadership. Instead they are enticed and corrupted by power.
Rather than drowning, they are standing on the shore while they toss the rest of us into the tempest that they have created. Many of us are drowning, but the view from the shore is so far away that they cannot see the suffering and death they have caused.
I am ashamed to be an American because the power brokers continue to write the rules from which they derive the most benefit. The power brokers have shielded themselves from those whose eyes they should be looking into as they take away their next meal, next month's rent and the ability to feel comfortable and safe in their own homes.
Meanwhile, the power brokers continue to dine in elegance, to be escorted in limos and to never have to rely on Social Security and Medicare as they receive paychecks that have been denied to park rangers, Social Security case workers and many government employees.
In other countries these conditions would fuel street protests and revolution, but Americans have come to expect moral corruption and ethical poverty from their elected officials. When those officials move to an even darker place, the little people remain complacent and show little surprise.
I am ashamed to be an American because the little people, all of the rest of us who do not hold elected office and who do not have our hands on the reins of power, will not get off of our collective butts and take to the streets when our lives are being treated as if they have no value or meaning.
The great experiment in democracy may come to an end. If we are to be honest we must declare that American-style democracy has become a failure in 2013. We must redefine what it is that no longer unites these 50 states and decide if we want liberty or death.
The elected officials in Washington have preserved their own personal brand of liberty while the rest of us move closer to death. If this sounds like exaggeration then you may be one of those people having trouble seeing the little people drowning in the sea that you have stirred up.
These are some of the reasons why I am ashamed to be an American.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and long-time health care advocate. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.