The United States of America will be 230 years old tomorrow. That’s about half the age of the unbroken Roman Empire; the Zhou Dynasty ruled China for more than 800 years. On this July 4th, I’ll ponder the future of our democracy and not its past (although I fully recognize that we must learn from the past). Some organizations are better equipped to make predictions and give warnings for the future of the world, and I won’t pretend to have their knowledge or expertise. But, it seems to me that the USA is at a crossroads, not just two roads crossing, but many.
We have traditionally wanted to admit the poor, tired and hungry to be part of our melting pot of cultures. Much of the world wants to eradicate the poor, tired and hungry people as well as those who are different. We couldn’t take them all, even if they all wanted to come to the USA. Undocumented immigrants come from all countries of the world, but in the USA, most come from Mexico and other American countries. We have built a fence to keep them out and assigned thousands of military personnel to kill or arrest those who manage to come across the border anyway. We are at a crossroads in immigration policy.
We have traditionally been a democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people. Candidates for office collectively spend billions of dollars to convince the people, and the candidate with the most money often wins. The gap between the rich and the poor has widened; mid-range homes in our state are about $200,000; the slum lords buy homes for the poor at $50,000. The number of multi-million dollar homes is increasing daily. The number of homes for poor people is decreasing daily. The number of poor people is increasing. Something is wrong with this picture. People who work full time at a minimum wage job cannot support themselves much less families. We are at a crossroads in economic policy.
One room schoolhouses were the standard for education in the early years of our country. Those who could take care of basic needs made education a priority for everyone. We currently have a program called, “No child left behind” to ensure that all children in the USA receive a good education. As with most other education programs in the last 100 years, this one is not producing the desired results. African-American youth, especially males, are still dropping out in large numbers. They are also the ones found in our prisons and drug rehabilitation programs. They cannot find jobs to meet their basic needs unless they sell drugs or other illegal substances. Education is not a priority with them – at least the kind of education that the USA is touting. A high school diploma cannot even guarantee a minimum wage job, which is poverty level. We are at an education crossroads.
Other crossroads involve community involvement, which is declining; ecological conservation; fossil energy depletion with alternatives; human relationships with divorce rates high and denial of basic rights to various kinds of relationships; consumerism fueled by disposable products, which will lead to a crisis in refuse management/disposal; unbridled pride fueled by years of being told we are the best nation in the world and leading to apathy; and fear of many things including terrorism, young black men in groups, loss of status.
Tomorrow as we turn 230 years old, let us turn our thoughts to what kind of country we want to have and bequeath to our descendants.