Two decades can feel like a mere blink of an eye in the grand tapestry of history, yet within that relatively short span, the United States has undergone a profound transformation. Values, once deeply ingrained in the American way of life, have shifted, evolved, or in some cases, gone missing. In this exploration, we will take a journey through the last twenty years and reflect on what John Nieman question, What Is Missing? means in the context of contemporary American society.

Economic Disparities

Two decades ago, the American dream was a beacon of hope for millions. The belief that hard work and determination could lead to financial security and upward mobility was a cornerstone of the nation’s ethos. Today, this dream seems more elusive than ever.

Income inequality has grown at an alarming rate, with the wealthiest few amassing fortunes, while the middle class shrinks. Economic disparities have left many Americans grappling with stagnant wages, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and crippling student loan debt. The promise of prosperity has faded for a significant portion of the population.

Technological Revolution

The rapid advancement of technology has revolutionized nearly every aspect of American life. The introduction of smartphones, social media, and the omnipresence of the internet has connected us in ways unimaginable just two decades ago. Yet, these very innovations have also altered our values and behavior.

The constant digital bombardment has led to shorter attention spans, diminished face-to-face social interactions, and an insatiable appetite for instant gratification. Our addiction to screens has obscured the appreciation of life’s simpler pleasures, leaving us to question what has been sacrificed in the name of progress.

Shifting Cultural Paradigms

Cultural and social changes have been equally seismic. The last twenty years have witnessed the rise of social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and calls for greater LGBTQ+ rights. While these movements have highlighted the importance of equity and justice, they have also exposed deep divisions within American society.

Polarized viewpoints and ideological battles have often overshadowed the shared values that once bound the nation together. Finding common ground has become an increasingly elusive goal.

John Nieman’s Question: “What Is Missing?”

In the midst of these sweeping changes, John Nieman’s question resonates deeply: What Is Missing? It challenges us to reflect on the values and principles that may have been lost or obscured along the way.

Community and Togetherness

One of the values that appear to be slipping away is the sense of community and togetherness. The digital age has ironically made us feel more isolated than ever. The ease of connecting with people online has come at the cost of genuine face-to-face interactions.

Rediscovering this sense of community involves investing time and effort into nurturing real-life relationships and participating in local events and gatherings. It’s about turning off the screens and reconnecting with the people and places that matter most.

Empathy and Understanding

In an era of fierce ideological battles, empathy and understanding have sometimes been casualties. It has become increasingly challenging to engage in civil, open-minded conversations with those who hold different beliefs.

To answer John Nieman’s question, we must rekindle empathy and promote open dialogue. Seeking to understand others’ experiences and perspectives, even when they differ from our own, is vital to healing the divisions in our society.

Environmental Responsibility

The environment is another realm where values have shifted over the past two decades. Climate change, once a distant concern, is now an imminent threat. The urgency of addressing environmental issues cannot be overstated.

To address what is missing in our environmental stewardship, we must embrace responsibility. This involves adopting sustainable practices, supporting green policies, and reducing our carbon footprint. Recognizing our duty to protect the planet for future generations is a shared value that must be reaffirmed.

Rediscovering Lost Values

While the transformations in American life have been profound, it is not too late to rediscover and reaffirm the values that may have gone missing.

Building Stronger Communities

To rebuild a sense of community and togetherness, we must prioritize real-life interactions. Engaging with our neighbors, participating in local events, and volunteering are all steps in the right direction. Building stronger communities is a shared responsibility that can rekindle the American spirit.

Cultivating Empathy and Understanding

Fostering empathy and understanding begins with active engagement. We must make a conscious effort to engage with people from different backgrounds and perspectives. By seeking common ground and engaging in civil discourse, we can bridge divides and strengthen our society.

Environmental Consciousness

Addressing environmental concerns requires collective action. Individuals can make a difference by reducing waste, conserving resources, and supporting environmentally friendly policies. A commitment to sustainability and responsible consumption is a value that can unite us in the fight against climate change.


The last twenty years have seen America undergo a remarkable transformation, with shifts in economic, technological, and cultural spheres. Amid these changes, John Nieman’s book, What Is Missing? serves as a poignant reminder to reflect on the values that may have been lost or obscured.

As we navigate the complexities of the modern world, let us strive to rebuild stronger communities, cultivate empathy and understanding, and embrace our responsibility to protect the environment. By doing so, we can work towards a more harmonious and values-driven American society, where what was once missing is found once again. In the end, it is our collective commitment to these values that will shape the America of the future.