Lee Hamilton, ex representative from the US House, now a college professor, wrote a column. Appearing in our local paper, he extolled all the great things Americans have going for them. No numbers were provided, just nice, broad strokes, the sort used while whitewashing broad stretches of fencing. He didn’t address what makes me glum. Like him, I won’t give numbers, just present my impressions.
Mr Hamilton makes a point that most Americans are very unhappy with Congress but insists that we have a good representative Democracy. I’m like most Americans, glum because as infrastructure collapses, Congress takes no action other than posturing and campaigning. I’m a bit glum about our Congress and Democracy because Republican controlled states gerrymandered Congressional districts to keep themselves in power and silence the majority. I’m glum because where gerrymandering didn’t succeed, Republicans worked hard to disenfranchise, cheat and alienate those who didn’t side with their flimsy, reactionary platform. I'm glum because the wealthy are taking greater control of our political process, creating marketing ads that sell candidates without attention to the candidates' strengths or positions. Big money, with a few scattered exceptions, just wants people it can control electrd.
Our military is one of our strengths, Mr Hamilton notes, with a nuclear deterrent and military prowess that other nations envy. I believe this is the same nuclear deterrent that existed when terrorists destroyed the twin towers in the WTC back when George Bush was POTUS, the same military power existing as the terrorists hijacked commercial aircraft and crashed them, one into the Pentagon, the center of our military capabilities, and that makes me glum. I think it’s the same military power we used to slog through the longest, most expensive wars in our history in Afghanistan and Iraq, the same military power that we’re trying to exercise in yet a third war against ISIS.
Lee Hamilton doesn’t mention the impressive numbers of mass killings by guns the US is aggregating. He doesn’t talk about the increasing protests and the dismay of Americans who see our police forces growing more militarized, and he doesn’t talk about the number of people our police are killing.
Hamilton tells us that America put more people back to work after this last economic recession than all the rest of the industrialized nations combined but doesn’t mention how people’s wages are stagnating or the rising rents in our urban areas. He extols our higher education as the best in the world without noting how costs are raising and that students are leaving colleges and universities burdened with record debts and few job opportunities. Left off his list is our secondary students’ falling scores and how often our results pale when these students are compared to their international peers, or that remedial college courses to teach math, English and history are all on the rise. Health care and its extraordinary costs in America aren’t addressed in his essay on America’s greatness, nor is our increasing infant mortality rate. Thinking about these things make me glum.
It's not that I'm a pessimist. I consider myself a pragmatic progressive, actually a hopeful idealist, although a glum one. Hamilton made a point that all is not good and he recognizes that. The problem to me, the reason I’m so glum, is that I see little political will being exercised to address these matters, that there are too many, like him, willing to pretend that the good things America has to offer are sufficient to keep us from being glum. The reason I’m so glum is that it’s never our strengths that keep us from becoming better. It’s our weaknesses that keep us from becoming a better nation, that stay the world from a course to improving our lives for everyone, everywhere, and actualizing the potential we as humans have to improve ourselves and our societies without destroying the planet. But if we do not acknowledge our weaknesses and work to improve them, there will be no improvement.
I see few, far too few, acknowledging the weaknesses or working to improve them, instead comfortably accepting the status quo. That's why I’m so glum.