By Jan Bell, AADC Representative to Placer County Democratic Party
Watching all the news networks over the past few weeks has revealed what is wrong with America. Some argue that our problems are illegal immigration, inefficient government and our socially liberal policies. Others argue our problems are our cruel capitalistic system, social injustices and income inequality. Instead I believe the problem is us.
Watching Americans argue is like watching a bad marriage on constant replay. We argue the same rhetoric we’ve used for the past sixty years. People are frustrated on both sides. No wonder – we’re just going back and forth, back and forth – yammering the same stale arguments and blaming the other side. Is there a way out of this or are we doomed to continue these incessant arguments?
One option, tried over 150 years ago, was a “divorce.” The South seceded from the Union arguing irreconcilable differences over slavery vs. free states. We fought a civil war for four years and over 600,000 Americans died. The North won but the only thing that changed was we made secession illegal. In many ways we are still fighting over the same issues. If something is good for our economy, does that always make it right? Can the Federal government insist on consistent laws across the country to protect all citizens, or do states have the right to differences in what is legal vs. illegal? Do my constitutional rights for liberty over-ride your constitutional rights to life?
Why don’t we resolve issues that are centuries old? The problem is us.
Americans haven’t changed as our country became the most powerful country, militarily and economically, on the planet. Many Americans still operate in ways reminiscent of cowboys or frontiersman. We value brute force, blunt language and headstrong allegiance to rigidly held beliefs. These are things that may have made our country great in the past, but will they keep us safe in the future?
We don’t live on the frontier anymore. The dangers we face are very different today than our forefathers faced. Our forefathers couldn’t have imagined a world where international corporations have more money and power than most countries. They couldn’t have imagined technologies that enable us to traverse the globe in a less than a day or that we’ve mapped the human genome. The threats we face now – pandemics, cyber-security breaches of our defense systems and excessive pollution negatively impacting our lives – would have terrorized them. These threats won’t be stopped by a wall on our border or verbal bluster from our leaders.
To survive and thrive we need to change how we behave. We’re not going to protect ourselves from these new threats with guns, boats and lazy old arguments. Nor are we going to protect ourselves by being rugged individualists. To protect our citizens we need new technologies, thorough analysis of scientific data to drive our decision making and extreme cooperation between public and private sectors in our country and with countries around the world. No cowboy ever thought or acted like that.
We can reminisce about the “good ole days” when life was simpler. But reminiscing isn’t going to protect us. We need to listen to experts who do root cause analysis and creative problem solving to define our plans. Fox News or MSNBC won’t give us the answers, nor will people who won’t listen to solid data-driven information. We should be proud that we’re an incredibly innovative nation capable of solving huge problems when we seek consensus and work together. Time to quit whining, be cooperative and take smart action.