A few days ago, I talked about how every 70-90 years or so, our society has experienced a dramatic upheaval. Starting with the American Revolution, the one we have now might be considered #4.
In the roughly 85 years since the Great Depression, some of arguably the best years of our nation’s history happened. Following World War II, we experienced the massive growth of a demographic cohort that came to be known as the Baby Boomers. Manufacturing blossomed, home ownership flourished, longevity increased, a “middle class” flourished and became the economic driving force envied by the world. All of which contributed to what was the American Dream.
What few of us understood or recognized were some evolving flaws that we describe today as income inequality, a warming climate, a too expensive health care system, housing costs that for many are overwhelming, college educations with a corresponding debt load, to name few.
As with each of those earlier social upheavals, the one from the 1930’s caused our nation and it’s people to be transformed. New priorities surfaced, supported by new enthusiasm, many of which became encoded in law. Over the next years, and despite the ravages of World War II and the Korean War, we felt proud of ourselves as we went about our daily lives, raising families, going on vacation, and filling our lives with more and more stuff.
Looking back, things began to unravel about the time Ronald Reagan became President. He ran on the premise that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” That sentiment has now festered for decades, gaining enough momentum to give us Donald Trump.
A reading of a recent opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times and you can begin to see how we got where we are today. My takeaway is this sentence: “What began 40 years ago as ideology is now pathology”.
The pandemic is causing society to ask real questions of itself. What’s more valuable, the lives of our citizens, or our ability to make money? Is it ok to lie and cheat to get ahead or is it better to reward competence and integrity as the driving force behind our everyday lives?
In many ways, life is a big game of Russian Roulette. Every morning when we get up we pull the trigger. We fail to wash our hands (I’ve touched nothing dangerous), we don’t wear a mask in public (I look foolish, and besides I have no symptoms), we don’t maintain social distancing (I haven’t seen you in forever, so give me a little hug). Sound familiar? Each time that happens, you’re putting another round in the gun. It doesn’t mean it will kill you today, but it increases the odds, and one day the chamber will be fully loaded.
We as a nation will survive this episode of chaos, though too many will die before it’s over. Those of us left standing will have to figure out what fundamental flaws evolved over the last 50 years that put us in this unhappy place. Many millions of Americans were in a very unhappy place in the mid 30’s, and look where we were 20 years later.
Many of the ideas espoused by some of our presidential candidates will, over the next 20 years, become the new normal. Health insurance in one form or another for everyone, advanced education for those who qualify at a cost that benefits society and not just the individual, rules and regulations that promote the health of the planet as opposed to simply benefiting corporate America.
Think of this as an opportunity to redefine our priorities as a society and a nation.
Tony Kendzior \ 10 APR 2020