We are now one-fifth of the way through the 21st century and the United States has, in many ways, refused to join the modern world. In its place, it clings to a past that if it continues will see this once great nation become a shell of itself while the modern world runs over us.
How can this be? To answer this question, we have to ask ourselves some questions that force us to take a hard look at ourselves.
Will we ever be a nation that relies on diplomacy instead of might? Robert Reich recently reported that one-fourth of our nation’s population has lived its entire life with us at war. This is what happens when we get sucked into wars that have zero end game. It’s also what happens when we fail to learn from our own history, case in point, Korea and Vietnam.
The long term result of an entire generation of post 9/11 kids growing up thinking war is a normal aspect of life while remaining ignorant of our history is our future leaders will think nothing of relying on war to solve their international disputes.
War economies are never booming economies. Despite our low unemployment, most workers are earning less today than they were before the economy crashed in 2008. It is more common to see adults holding down multiple part time jobs or second jobs because their primary work fails to provide a livable wage. Today’s youth may never be able to retire because they may never be able to secure enough money to enjoy old age.
If you believe in the saying, “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten,” then you will not be shocked when it results in a constantly sluggish and underperforming economy, more terrorist threats at home, and an inability to sit at the table like adults and solve disputes.
How does the United States expect to ever get out of the Middle East while remaining an oil dependent nation? Once again, we failed to learn from history. As long as we insist on sucking oil out of the ground and ocean floor, we will remain involved in the Middle East. As long as our leaders suck up to Big Oil, we will remain involved in the Middle East.
We know this because with every oil crisis and every Middle East crisis since the 1970s, our leaders have continued to side with the special interests of major oil companies rather than the interests of voters who could easily have very cheap and renewable energy today had we cut the cord 45 years ago.
Since these companies are dependent on foreign oil producers for increased profits and since they also do not care if they destroy our planet to drill for oil, they will continue to line the pockets of Republicans and Democrats, ensuring the cost of solar and wind energy remain costly. Don’t count on affordable energy anytime soon.
You do not have to be a rocket scientist to know we could walk away from the Middle East without fearing an oil embargo every time tensions rise. You just have to be a greedy bastard to make sure we remain dependent on big oil and sufficiently immoral to not care about the fallout it has for the average citizen or the planet.
When will our environment matter? Rising seas, melting icebergs, massive storms never before experienced, parched land, burning rainforests, and lung choking air have yet to convince one political party, the GOP, that we have a problem with our planet’s environment. It should not surprise us when this is the same party that describes their opponents as elitists because they value education, while they (the GOP) eliminate environmental protections. There is more to learn when you crack open a book and read than by watching some loud mouth on Fox News tell you what to think.
Ignorance is bliss until your roof blows off your house and you get sucked out by a category five hurricane that science warned you about. The GOP would have you believe life was better when you suffered from black lung, TB, and dysentery. It’s better to send young men and women halfway around the world to kill Muslims for the good of Big Oil and corrupt evangelicals than it is to put them to work cleaning up our environment by actually producing smaller carbon footprints through a modernization of our approach to living and respecting the planet.
Will we ever see the rise of powerful third and fourth political parties?
Don’t count on it, not as long as the two current parties control the process. Perhaps, if enough fed up billionaires with a conscience decide to make it happen, however, what are the odds of that happening?
Both political parties are to blame for our failure to join the modern world. They have turned our political system into one gigantic pissing contest which results in nothing getting done. There is no bipartisanship and don’t bet on there becoming any even if Trump is voted out of office. It generally does not happen unless there is an emergency, think war, so neither party has to carry the banner as being un-American.
If Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill were in politics today, they’d get run out of office by their own parties. Cooperation is something we teach our kindergartners. Leadership is now where adults act like they belong in preschool.
When will we wise up about college? Public education does not serve the needs of the public nearly as much as it buys into the idea that everyone is better off if they earn a college degree. The more people who possess something, the less value it has. I don’t care what the product is, the more of it in the hands of people, the less it is worth.
A college degree is now nothing more than a product sold through a dozen years of advertising called public education. For most folks who earn a degree, it leaves them with a massive debt to pay off in a career that has nothing to do with what they majored in while attending college.
Parents, quit trying to one up the Jones’ and pressure your children to sacrifice their childhood in the name of college. Make your kids get dirty doing manual labor around the house. Expect them to do chores, hold down a part time job during summer or after school, and make them see how people in the real world actually labor away as adults.
Guess what? Some might actually decide they prefer to work than go to school for a BA that means nothing more than a high school diploma once meant. There is nothing wrong with learning a trade and bypassing college debt and a life of trying to navigate one’s way up the career ladder.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs in the trades go unfilled every year which slows the growth of our economy, all because we have brainwashed our children to think they have to go to college to ever amount to anything. There are not enough corner offices for every college grad, which is why it helps to have an MA if you want to work as a manager at a fast foot joint. Twenty bucks an hour for a masters is not going to get you to the same spot in life as three or four times that rate as a mechanic, plumber, welder, electrician, or contractor.
Will we ever have anything else to offer other nations other than our military? Let’s face it, America is being played by other nations. While we insist on policing the world, more of our allies are willing to let us. Is it a coincidence that while more democratic nations are offering affordable health care, cheaper college education, and greater services to their tax payers, we are mired in an endless series of taxpayer funded wars while falling behind in education, healthcare, senior services, and public transportation?
In the process, we have created a two class system of haves and have nots which will add to the increased turmoil we face inside our borders. More violent deaths, an increase in suicides, and more social protests have resulted since 9/11. These things do not happen when a nation is at peace and able to invest in itself and offer hope for all, you know, like this nation was able to throughout most of the previous century.
Will we ever stop caring about the color of a person’s skin or the religion they practice? In fact, will we ever stop caring about the lifestyle choices of people if they are not harming anyone? Get over the fact your neighbors are gay, your boss is Hindu, your teacher is atheist, or your doctor is female. They are not the problem.
You can call yourself anything you want, but most people care more about your actions. Hate, ignorance, and the idea your way of thinking is the only right way are cancers that keep this nation from being fully healthy and vibrant.
Good comes in all shapes, colors, and belief systems. So does hate. It’s simple; we either choose to be an example of good or bad. If you think being good means supporting ideas and movements that limit the rights and freedoms of others that you enjoy, you are a hypocrite, or worse, brainwashed.
Have we missed the boat? Only time will tell if it is too late. However, we did not become the great nation other countries looked up to because we failed to tackle our problems. We have shown on many occasions just how much we can accomplish when we agree to confront all challenges and not just military threats. However, it is safe to say as long as we remain a nation divided from the top down and split into haves and have nots, the odds of us remaining the greatest nation on the planet diminish with each passing day. We can captain the ship or cling to life rafts. The choice is ours.
Top photo is a YouTube screenshot of a wildfire in Australia
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.