I wonder what kind of country my grandchildren’s grandchildren will inherit? Will it be a nation at peace, or one in constant warfare? Will they live in the freedom of a democracy, or be oppressed by a brutal autocracy? Will the air be clean and clear, or will they need respirators when they leave their climate-controlled dwellings? Will they have ocean beaches, campgrounds, mountain trails, lakes, tree-filled parks and bike paths to enjoy, or will the natural environment be so compromised that it is hostile to human recreation? Will clean water be abundant, or will they need artificially-manufactured chemical liquid to quench their thirst?
Will my great, great grandchildren’s America be a country in which people of different races and religions live together in mutual respect, or will ethnicity, skin color and religion define a hierarchy of social-economic status. Will their country’s government be competent and focused on the common good, or will it be controlled by plutocrats whose only interest is their own wealth and power? Will their nation’s international standing be determined primarily by military dominance, or by a commitment to justice and equality for all people?
America at a Turning Point
I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, but I do believe that America has reached a turning point, an intersection: one path leads toward democracy and the other toward autocracy. Each of us must make a choice, and whichever course we choose to follow we will scatter seeds along the way. When the seeds take root, they will mature into the nation that our far-distant progeny inherit.
This choice of direction will determine whether future generations live in a clean, sustainable environment, or are plagued by environmental destruction. How we respond today to our racial, gender, economic and religious differences will set in place social structures that foster either community or conflict. Our response today to international strife will set the stage for a world either at peace or constant warfare.
The present-day facts of American political life do not bode well for the seeds we are planting. Republicans are building a case that facts do not matter. They have constructed their ideology on a foundation of lies, giving precedence to conspiracy theories over truth and supplanting science with fiction.
Do not think for a moment that what they are doing is playing a political game of egos. This is not a game. It is a deadly serious time in which two very different views of America are locked in a contest to set the course of this nation’s future, a future that belongs not to us but to generations we will never know.
Autocracy of Democracy
Joe Biden, a leader from the elder generation, understands this. He is fighting to ferret out the authoritarian tendencies of the last four years as he seeks to strengthen representative democracy. He and the Democrats envision an activist government helping people meet their basic needs, while Republicans are threatened by this. Their response is to enact laws in more than 40 states that limit access to the polls. Why are the Republicans so desperate to limit voting? Because they are a minority party and they are without any coherent platform other than blocking progressive responses to the needs of the people.
When asked about their strategy, they say Democrats are trying to grab power by altering voting laws and rules. This, in fact, is what the Republicans are doing on a state-by-state basis.
The Democrats’ proposed solution (labeled the “For The People Act”), ensures that every state plays by the same set of rules, rules that cannot be changed to benefit a losing party.
A Renewed and Durable Infrastructure
Biden also understands the economic and social need for a renewed and durable infrastructure. Republicans support infrastructure spending, but their view differs from that offered by the president. While Biden and the Democrats propose an undertaking to repair the nation’s physical infrastructure (decaying roads and bridges, inadequate transportation systems, polluted and withering waterways, decaying dams, vulnerable power grids and unsafe buildings) they are also adamant about strengthening the core of the nation’s human foundation: the people.
His proposals include moving away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy; bolstering caregiving for aging and disabled Americans by expanding long-term care services and improving the wages of care providers; investing in small businesses; building and retrofitting homes to increase affordable housing for low to middle-income people; investing in research and development; replacing all of the country’s lead pipes and rebuilding the fresh water infrastructure; upgrading the school buildings so that they are clean, safe and conducive to learning; increasing and strengthening opportunities for both early education and community colleges, adding four years to the current 12 years of public education; making high-speed broadband accessible for all Americans, regardless of where they live.
It is time for each American to engage, to study the proposals—not the political rhetoric or the advocacy of partisans, but the proposals themselves. Ignore the dog whistles and the hot- button words. Try to understand the motives and reasons of both sides of the debate. Then make up your own mind, take a stand, write or call your Senator and Member of Congress. The future of your great, great grandchildren depends on what you do in this crucial moment.
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.