Not long before we first heard about COVID 19, social distancing, masks, testing and all of the other phrases that have become part of our lexicon I attended an outdoor concert with one of my grandsons. During intermission we discussed various issues that were issues being bandied about in the lead up to the selection of candidates for the 2020 presidential race. It only took a few minutes to find that my grandson and I agreed on what the problems were but our ideas for solutions and how quickly we needed to address them were miles apart. He insisted on an urgency that I thought was unnecessary. I spoke of how our government is known for solving problems incrementally and I heartily supported that kind of slow and deliberate approach. My grandson insisted that we had ignored so many challenges for so long that we were running out of time. He predicted that our hesitancy would come back to bite us. I attempted to soothe his youthful anxieties to no avail. We ended our talk agreeing to disagree on how much time we have to seriously face the many dilemmas that threaten us.
In retrospect it seems as though my grandson was a kind of prophet. I should have considered the fact that he has always been the calmest of my seven grandkids. He is in fact one of the least likely people that I know to cry wolf or make much ado about nothing. As I have watched event after event unfold in the ensuing year I clearly see his point that we have neglected far too many issues for far too long and now things appear to be collapsing around us.
He noted that we had failed in decade after decade to address injustice, racism, equality. We sweep such matters under the rug and spout platitudes rather than admitting that we have much work to do if we are going to move past the kind of moments when a young Black man is murdered while jogging through a neighborhood. We all watched in horror as a man was begging for a breath for nine minutes for purportedly committing a somewhat minor crime. After his death at the hands of a police officer when frustrations filled the streets with people asking that we hear their concerns we once again were more disquieted by random acts of destruction. Many demanded a quick end to the protests and labeled the protestors as looters and criminals. We never really spoke of the root of the problems rather than the symptoms and found little agreement on much needed criminal justice reform. In general we just wanted the problem to go away.
When we surged into the lead in deaths from COVID 19 we argued over petty things like wearing masks or quarantines rather than working together as a united community to end the spread of disease. While our counterparts in other parts of the world agreed to sometimes draconian measures of preventions we often ignored science and spent more time haggling over our freedoms.
For decades we have known that we have an immigration problem that demands a comprehensive overhaul but we spend more time arguing than proposing and accepting reforms. The challenges grow and grow and grow and we allow our leaders to do nothing beyond either locking the door to immigrants or opening it wide. The longer we wait to get serious the more difficult it will be to find reasonable solutions that will finally make a real difference.
In the last many months weather induced crises affected virtually every part of the United States. Each year it feels as though wildfires are more frequent and devastating. Parts of the west are so dry that it takes very little to create a disaster. All along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts hurricane season is becoming more and more brutal. Land that is being overtaken by the oceans. Tornadoes, wind storms, blizzards, freezing events are happening in places that have never seen such things. We repair what is broken by climate events but we seem unwilling to change our ways to help prevent total chaos in the future.
Mass shootings have become a way of life in the United States. They are nothing knew but there are more and more of them. Surely we can accept that the proliferation of guns in the hands of so many people is not providing us protections as much as making it more likely that someone with an evil or sick mind will harm us. How many guns do we actually need? What kind of guns are literally overkill? How can we stop the madness before we are shooting at one another? Limiting the number and type of guns should not be anathema anymore than wearing a mask to prevent the spread of disease should be and yet there are those who literally threatened civil war if anyone dares to inject sanity into our gun laws.
Our problems are mounting in education, mental health, voting rights, the economy. The task is daunting but if we lay down our preconceived notions and anger we should be able to work together to find doable answers for all of these issues and more. Our biggest problem right now is our unwillingness to do anything at all.
We have become like an old house or car that has been neglected for so long that we are falling apart all at once. Our proverbial roof is leaking. We are falling through rot in the floor. The glass in the window is broken. The pipes for the plumbing have collapsed. Everything needs a repair if we are to escape a total collapse.
Our foundation is still good but even that was threatened on January 6, and half of the population seems to think that the assault on the Capitol was no big deal. In truth it is all a big deal. My grandson is correct. We need to prioritize issues one by one and enact reforms before it is too late. We have to stop wishing away our problems and thinking that if we wait just a bit longer all of the difficulties will go away. We can no more afford to do that than the owner of a car can keep driving on a flat tire. We are where we are not because one group wants to change the very face of our nation, but because we have failed for too long to maintain the infrastructures of our nation. it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get busy or the tragedies will only become more frequent and worse. What are we waiting for?