Americans are facing a choice and are rapidly running out of time to make a decision: do we chose to live in hope or to dissemble in fear.
If it is the former, urgent action is needed. People who generally stay away from politics must instead stand up, get engaged and meet our challenges head on. If it is the later, just sit and wait for our nation to join other former world powers in a backwater of has-beens.
There is no question that the United States has had a hard and discouraging four years. We have suffered through a president who was inclined to abandon democracy in favor of autocracy.
His words and actions inspired violent militias that threatened violence against anyone––including elected officials–– who dared to dissent from his rule. They cast a pall over the election of a new president, and invaded the Capitol for the purpose of undercutting the will of the people.
Angry mobs of white supremacists, fearful of losing their privileged status, are fighting to turn the nation back to the Jim Crow era. An epidemic of gun violence continues to ravage the nation.
Since the beginning of the year there have been approximately 150 mass shootings across the country:
and Washington, DC.
Some members of the senate are waving the filibuster flag and refusing to take any action that could combat this uniquely American phenomenon of gun violence.
An Existential Threat
The existential threat of climate catastrophe comes closer and closer to being an earth-destroying reality. But there are enough senators to filibuster a planet-saving response. They simply refuse to acknowledge, let alone combat, the impending danger.
These senators adopt head-in-the-sand posture despite the fact that the nation is regularly battered by floods and wild fires, devastating storms, declining fresh water supplies, and rising seas. We are slowly sinking into a quicksand-like abyss of global warming.
Meanwhile, the country is still rocked by the twin assaults of Covid and the long-standing and virulent destruction of our national soul by racism.
Furthermore, economic inequality and increasing homelessness; decaying roads, bridges and buildings; and an eroding public education network join the multitude of challenges Americans are facing.
We are in the midst of what Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, calls a “sort of national convulsion.”
There is no question that even this partial list of critical issues seems daunting.
But I have hope.
Americans have always come together in times of crisis, and if we do it again—do it now— we can meet this challenge.
President Joseph Biden has put forward aggressive plans and programs to address much of what confronts us, from the climate crisis to rebuilding the nation’s physical, human and economic infrastructures.
He has accomplished the goal of 200 million Covid vaccinations in his first 100 days, proposed and signed a major Covid/recovery bill, met with Democratic and Republican Senators and House members to urge their bipartisan support of his proposed agendas, and urged the senate to drop the filibuster and vote on the House-passed gun safety bills.
Restoring American Credibility
The president is holding a summit this week to rally world leaders around a global commitment to combat climate change; and, he is seeking to heal America’s breach of both the Paris Climate Accord and the agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (plus Germany).
We were leaders in developing these two agreements and, despite progress in both arenas, we welched on our deals and backed out of both. Restoring the nation’s international credibility is critical.
There is a lot to argue about regarding the substance, size and breadth of these and other Biden proposals, but there should be no argument about the urgency of finding a consensus agreement and taking action.
To do otherwise is to surrender and become observers of what will be a long and tortuous dissent into national irrelevance. This is the un-American way of meeting a challenge.
Optimism or Hope?
While I cannot say that I am optimistic about the future, I am deeply hopeful. Optimism and hope are not the same.
As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the UK wrote, “Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better. Hope is the belief that we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope is an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but one does need courage to hope.”
For me, optimism is seeded in my ever-changing mind, and hope is planted in the depths of my unchangeable soul. Hopeful people don’t go through life simply expecting that everything will be OK.
They instead engage each day, focusing on what they can do to bring the hoped-for vision into reality. The nation needs hope, we need courage and we need action.
Whether you agree with my opinion on the issues or have different ideas, do your homework. Do not rely on tweets, partisan flacks, your favorite talking heads or the conspiracy theorists. Instead, ground yourself with solid facts. Then contact your US Congressperson and your US Senator, state your opinion and ask for action.
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.