Religious fundamentalists would have us believe that America is suffering for its sins, and that our policies of inclusion, secularism and pluralism offend their god and their religious sensibilities. This is a distraction. They are distracting us from noticing the real threats to our future — threats that are much more mundane but threats that make it harder to predict a positive outcome.
- We’ve taken thousands of young people out of our society at a time of their lives when they are still impressionable and not yet fully mature, trained them to be hunters and killers and transported them to a foreign country unlike ours in so many ways. We’ve kept them there for much of their formative years. Eventually they’ll come home. Is America prepared to deal with thousands of 20 and 30 year old people who essentially grew up as warriors in a foreign land? Do the means exist to help them adjust, to reintegrate into our society? How will we put their skills to use?
- America has more people in prisons per capita than any other country on Earth. In 2008, over 7.3 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at year-end — 3.2% of all U.S. adult residents or 1 in every 31 adults. (Source) Far too many of these people were imprisoned for violations of moral law, drugs, gambling and prostitution, and will eventually be released back into society. While in prison many of these “criminals” associated with and learned from more hardened criminals. Having been branded as criminals, many will employ these new skills when they find themselves unemployable and rejected by their society. By enforcing our useless moral laws we have created a entire criminal class that will affect all the rest of our society. Our federal and state budgets cannot even provide services for the law-abiding among us. How will we provide the funds to rehabilitate this class of criminals? How will we be able to afford to monitor them in case they backslide? What will happen to our culture when a million adult former prisoners re-enter our neighborhoods?
- Our dependence on oil and other non-renewable resources has not waned, even in the face of the worst environmentally catastrophic oil spill in U.S. history. Electric vehicles and those running on alternative fuels continue to sell poorly. Manufacturers do not see a compelling reason to produce more environmentally friendly vehicles when people aren’t buying them. We don’t even appear to be willing to make small sacrifices that might reduce the amount of oil we need, like reducing freeway speeds. Not only are we a wasteful nation but one unwilling to sacrifice for the common good. Will that attitude change in the future? Will our children be more willing to make the sacrifices we aren’t willing to make? Will we ever acknowledge our addiction to non-renewable resources and do whatever it takes to kick it?
- Over time we have come to inseparably associate democracy with capitalism. We have enshrined both as the epitome of human society. Anyone who suggests that democracy may not be scalable and workable in the 21st century or that capitalism may not be the best way for people to engage in the exchange of goods is castigated from all sides. We cannot accept the idea that our system may be breaking down and not have much of a future. We are faced with abuses of Wall Street and corrupt government officials and persist in considering them anomalies, not indicators of a weak system. Will we ever be able to consider alternatives to our present systems? Will we be able to listen to and consider alternative theories without demonizing those who suggest them? Can we admit that perhaps, just perhaps, our current models aren’t destined to last forever?
- Will technology be our savior or present us with a host of new and frightening possibilities we haven’t envisioned or provided for? What will we do with all the workers displaced by the inevitable increase in robotic manufacturing? Will we be able to provide for citizens without jobs? Can we make leisure profitable? Will we have to return to a barter system when money becomes worthless? If a future court makes abortion illegal, how will we cope with an increasing population born to unemployed and unemployable couples? Are increased taxes the answer, smaller government? Will neighborhoods have to take over the maintenance of their infrastructure from the federal government?
- Our economy is in a shambles and we may not have seen the worst of it yet. Greed has displaced reasonable commerce at many levels. Millions of people around the globe suffer inhumane conditions every day because a humane response wouldn’t be profitable for those who could alleviate their suffering. Where once merchants were satisfied with making a realistic profit by selling their goods at a price consumers found attractive, now the attitude is to make as much profit in as short a time possible and the consumer be damned. Websites are worth more money than many businesses, solely because of their potential as marketing venues. Searching for information on the internet has been commercialized. Our economy is essentially out of control and our current models provide no relief. Indeed, the teabaggers would have us believe that less government control is beneficial at the same time we can trace the present financial catastrophe directly back to the government’s deregulation of the banking industry. We have no concrete plan to get us out of this mess beyond platitudes. Does anyone have a realistic solution? Can we even get our heads far enough above water to try and look for land? Are we doomed to become a nation ruled by the rich solely because they are rich?
- Our Southern coast and perhaps eventually our Eastern coast is being threatened by an oil leak of disastrous proportions. Too many of us would rather argue about global climate change than do anything, even make the most minor effort, to do anything about it. We have become a nation of ostriches with our heads buried in the sands of denial. Some claim against all reason that millions of humans introduced into a stable biosphere couldn’t possibly have any negative impact. The planet hasn’t had a very long time to try and deal with all the added waste humans have forced into our environment in our short time here. We have no good solution to store nuclear waste at the same time some are encouraging us to reconsider nuclear power as a solution to our oil addiction. Solar and wind power? Oh, those are too expensive they say. It would be more accurate to say there’s not enough profit in those technologies to satisfy the greed of the providers. Is the future of our country to be decided strictly on the basis of greed and profit? Does any sane person really believe the environment is invulnerable to our impositions on it or that humans are no more a problem for the Earth to deal with than flies or deer? Do we really think we can keep on living the way we have with no impact on the ecosystem, the only ecosystem that we know of that can sustain us? Instead of reducing our impact on the Earth should we all be prostrating ourselves in prayer?
We can’t afford to let the fundamentalists distract us from attempting to find real solutions to our very real problems. It is not beneficial to the future of our country or of humanity to simply blame all our problems on our lack of bigotry and insufficient xenophobia. Do we sit around and hope that some abstract philosophical concept will save us from ourselves or do we get off our collective behinds and start trying to find a way out of the mess we’ve made of our present and the potential horror we can expect in the future?