Musings from a left-handed left-leaning suburban Jewish social observer

Is it just me or is America (and much of the world) spiraling out of control? Are these unprecedented times or are we just in a downturn that’s part of a cycle? Are better times ahead? Is it time to panic or do we just have to wait it out? Here are a few examples that to me demonstrate the worrisome state of affairs in the U S of A:

In 1973, the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade ensured a woman’s constitutional right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. Today, in 2021, a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal. And yet, this fundamental right is at risk, first from a conservative, Republican-majority-appointed Supreme Court and also from several states, led by Texas legislators who believe they can skirt the law, create new rules and prevent women in their states from making this choice for themselves.

65-70% of Americans favor some type of gun reform. Every year over 115,000 people in America are shot; 14,000 are killed. Every 16 hours a woman is fatally shot by her current or former partner. 155% more people are shot in incidents where assault weapons or high-capacity magazines are used. And yet, nothing gets done. This is not a partisan issue as both parties have stood by offering thoughts and prayers but no meaningful action.

The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. President Biden has proposed raising this to $15 as part of his stimulus plan. While this is a state-by-state issue and due to labor shortages, we are starting to see higher wages. It’s shameful that since the last Federal increase in the minimum wage 18 years ago, Congress has raised their own pay 9 times.

In a recent speech at the Youth Climate Summit in Milan, Greta Thunberg, the 18-year-old activist eviscerated world leaders for failing to take meaningful action to decelerate climate change. The science is clear. This is a man-made problem. Warmer temperatures over time are changing weather patterns and are disrupting the balance of nature. Storms are more severe. There is increased drought. Ocean levels are rising. There is a loss of species, a rise in hunger and more health risks. The Colorado River, which provides water and hydropower to 7 states, is drying up. The long-term effects of this are devastating. And yet, all we get from our leaders, as Ms. Thurnberg so eloquently put it is

Blah, Blah, Blah

Holiday presents may be delayed. Crucial parts shortages threaten our manufacturing process. Grocery stores have trouble getting many items. Our supply chain crisis — caused by Covid-19 disruptions paired with a boom in demand exacerbated by a shortage of workers, equipment and space — is disrupting countless businesses and is not expected to be back to normal until Spring 2022.

Critical race theory has become a lightning rod and promises to be a mainstay of Republican rhetoric in the midterm elections and beyond. School board meetings have become war zones. Democrats have yet to figure out a way to neutralize or turn this around.

According to the ADL’s most recent Audit of Antisemitic Incidents in the US, there were 2100 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment — an increase of 12% over the previous year. These are the highest levels since ADL’s tracking began in 1979. Closer to home, we’re hearing more and more about increases in antisemitism on our college campuses.

As a young man growing of age in the Vietnam era, I’ve always been suspicious of the role of the military-industrial complex. Too many people and large corporations, with the help of their lobbyists, growing rich beyond imagination. Creating tanks that are obsolete before they reach the end of the assembly line. We spent $725 billion on national defense during FY 2020 but only $9.85 billion on cyber security. Why don’t our leaders see that the wars of today and of tomorrow will be fought on the computer screen more than on the battlefield?

I wonder how cyclical political trends are. Has this country been this divided since the civil war? With both parties so intransigent, how can anything ever be accomplished? What happened to compromise for the greater good? Seems that getting re-elected, holding on to the power and privilege of a House or Senate seat takes precedent of doing the work your constituents put you there to do in the first place.

The idea of American exceptionalism dates back to colonial times. Its roots can be found in the thought of Puritan settlers who regarded the North American continent as a promised land where a new Canaan could be built as a model for the rest of the world. I wonder if they would still feel that way.

I’m not a social scientist or policy expert. I’m just an average American citizen who is concerned and has seen enough to wonder if we are on the precipice of an American Apocalypse or if there is reason for Hope. I’ve thought a lot about this and I come down on the side of our better angels. I think we’ll get through this and come out the other side a better, more reasonable and less divided country. I believe there is still reason for Hope. America is the most innovative country in the world. We have a way of overcoming obstacles. We have a collective “can do” attitude. If we stick together and fight for the greater good I think the future is bright.

“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.” – Jonas Salk