I imagine most of us, in our twilight years, would like to feel we will leave this world a better place than when we got here. Whether we participated in or just witnessed the passing parade it would be natural to take some credit for social progress or conversely, some shame, bequeathing a society less enlightened, less equitable and less likely to survive. With our country in peril or pervasive disrepair we are left to wonder what went wrong. I could swear I told them what to do but did they listen? No.
Are we now not meaner, greedier and dumber? The Republicans have seized the narrative, speak with malice and mendacity and have institutionalized avarice. Every day comes another abuse of state power to rig the election by re-districting or denial of voting rights. Where is Joseph Welch to ask, Have you no decency?
How could science and technology have made such unimaginable leaps forward since 1900 with breakthroughs in medicine, particle physics, integrative circuits etc… even as our social fabric seems to be degraded. The slate of Republican candidates runs from imbeciles to liars with a chorus of talk-show buffoons to repeat and amplify the deceit. Our films are mind-numbing sensory opiates while we continue to belch our way into planetary extinction.
Yet as seen from a distance we have moved a significant inch in terms of civil rights, suffrage, reproductive rights and Gay/Lesbian issues. Every gain has been earned against fierce push-back. I’d like to believe that the malevolent voices from the far Right are but the last gasps from a privileged class. Accelerated change, itself, is a perceived threat to many people who cannot find their way in this new dystopia. Add to all this is the decline of the United States as an imperial power.
Our bad news is some other regions good news. The rise of Southeast Asia seems evident. Singapore, India and China along with Brazil and possibly a secularized Islamic state will get their piece of the rock in the century ahead. Maybe the lifting of developing nations entails the diminution of our own as resources are spread more evenly around the world.
It would help if we accepted this reality. Our ranking in the world is shockingly low whether measured by social mobility, life expectancy or educational level. We need to bring home our legions, reinvigorate domestic repairs, reinvest in education to meet new demands and face the consequences of a damaged ecology.
I’m feeling better already. What has devolved here has evolved elsewhere. It may not be the American model but I can live with that. It is only by accident of birth that I benefited for seven or eight decades and I'm not leaving yet. The next chapter belongs to other continents, more densely populated and deserving of their prominence. Let us step aside with grace and humility and live as one among many.