As 2010 comes to an end, there are plenty of reasons to be afraid. One out of eight of our neighbors is unemployed, our community’s safety net is being steadily demolished and the state budget deficit looms like Mount Everest. Add to this global warming and our generation’s lack of preparation for retirement or the health-care challenges of old age. We are in a pickle.
That’s obvious. But I believe we can change the future.
Yes, we can change it. There are problems of physics and there are problems of will. If your car has literally gone off a cliff, unless the law of gravity suspends, you are going down. If the cancer has spread all over your body, it is only a matter of time. We don’t have a chance against physics. But America’s problems are not problems of physics. They are problems of will. We can solve them, but we first must find the will to do so.
We can fix the economy. Our grandparents faced tougher economic challenges during the Depression. But with income inequality reaching levels last seen just before the Great Depression, the economy will not fix itself. With higher taxes on the very wealthy and corporations, we can circulate that money back into the economy to create jobs weatherizing homes, improving parks and upgrading water systems. We can do this.
We spend as much on our military as the rest of the world combined. Why? Our excess military spending is not just destroying our economy, it may actually make us less safe. We can change it.
We can fix global warming. But we will need to change our lifestyles. We can live in a smaller home. We can drive a car that uses less gas. We can have fewer things and still be happy. Yes, we can do this.
We can change the health-care system. Canada and many European countries have better health-care systems at a fraction of the per-capita cost compared to the United States. Can we learn from these countries? We will need to address tough questions: What is a good death? When does it make sense to provide health care and when does it not? But we can fix it.
The list goes on and on. It’s easy to pretend our problems are not solvable. But it’s harder to buckle down and decide to change. We can’t go for the easy political win. We need to ask the tough questions and face up to the answers.
In 2011, I will celebrate my 60th trip around the sun. During my life, I have seen many changes. So I know that change can happen. In the long run, our survival requires that we face up to our challenges and create change. So let’s all commit to making it happen in 2011.