Some of my medical colleagues thought I would see patients sleepless and unhinged, suffering “post-election depression.”
I haven’t seen it.
Bodies regenerate themselves continuously. They never stay the same, always rebuilding, from the beginning to the end of life.
Countries do the same. Populations are born, immigrate, emigrate, grow up and die witnessing the next generation modify or deny much of what they held dear. Some here are some reasons America can regenerate just as other living beings do:
1. Post Election Economic Depression? To listen to media pundits the “end is nigh” for the American economy. There is the fiscal cliff; the Euro crisis; wars in the Middle East that can cut off oil production; huge sovereign country debts; Japan in recession; China slowing. The NYSE Dow went down 2.4% when Obama and many Democrats were elected, and has kept falling.
However A. The economy has been rising for more than a year B. Stock markets went down even more after Obama’s first win in 2008, and are up about 70% since C. As investor Jeremy Grantham points out, Democrats have been far better for markets – and for the economy – than Republicans over the last 50 years D. Sense and sensibility may return to a political party that attempted to default all Federal government debt a year ago. Many thought that action would precipitate a full blown global depression and cost the US Treasury trillions more in interest payments.
It didn’t happen. Perhaps we won’t see the same mistake.
2. Increasing Inclusivity – Countries regenerate like other living things. What are we to make of the fact that 45% of Obama voters came from “minorities”?
First, that America was created by immigrants, built by immigrants; its entrepreneurial spirit is continually enriched by immigrants. That two states also voted for same-sex marriage recognizes that yet another “minority” is now viewed by many as a normal part of the mainstream.
For in America, minorities have a way of joining the “majority” – and nourishing the nation’s growth – economically, socially, and politically. That we are a nation built by people from other nations is one of our greatest strengths – and what much of the rest of the world recognizes as the great hope of America.
3. A Return to Reality? SuperPacs were one reason Americans loathed this endless, often ugly political campaign. Yet contempt for reality has increasingly infected politics and social discourse. After the disaster of Hurricane Sandy, politicians may start deriding the “myth” of global warming and do something about it – or watch many of our major cities and coastlines become unlivable. Contempt for reality is not a long term, viable strategy. Many more may recognize that women do not self-abort following rape, and that evolution is a critical, continuous part of human biology rather than a “theory”.
One moment of the last campaign crystallized – at least for me – how spin overwhelmed reasoned political discussion. In the first presidential debate theater, Governor Romney lectured President Obama about the “14% decrease in oil production” on Federal land under his administration. I was awestruck that politicians routinely keep oil production figures in their head, but Romney kept hammering.
And he told the “truth.” Oil production on Federal land had declined by 14% in the year 2010-2011 ( it went up over the full term of Obama’s first term).
But what happened during the 2010-2011 production year? The Gulf Oil spill. Oil production declined because of a great, ongoing environmental disaster – a clear a warning as one might get about the drilling policy Romney advocated.
The media as usual were MIA. Perhaps someday they’ll change from convert back to journalists from “news readers.”
Systems of Hope
American “greatness” has been built on our capacity for reinvention and cool-headed pragmatism. Look at the space program. In a little more than ten years we went from a nation that could not put a pill bottle in orbit to landing a man on the moon.
That pragmatic capacity remains. Now we have to harness it to the realization that countries – like organisms – are systems, and that the parts always affect the whole. And:
1. Come to recognize that health is not about health care, but lifestyle, education, sanitation, nutrition, and vaccination. Spending 18% of GDP on a “system” that fails tens of millions and decreases economic competitiveness is unsustainable and unnecessary.
2. Educational policy needs to accept that learning occurs throughout life and often outside the classroom. Global economic competitiveness will require a continually educated workforce. There have to be new initiatives looking at how parents, the Internet, universities, libraries, and classrooms can be functionally linked so that kids and adults will learn and earn.
3. Regardless of whether you believe global climate change is 10% or 30% or 80% manmade, climate change must be tackled. American infrastructure has to rebuilt with an eye towards flexibility; coastlines have to be recognized as shifting and unstable. What’s good for ecology can be good for an economy that needs to innovate and invest.
Because the US is not alone. Half the world’s population lives near coastlines. Food and water sources are rapidly changing, and so must managing them.
We can do this. A country that put a man on the Moon – while fighting the Vietnam War – will come back.
And others have problems, too. Recently a world leader announced that his country’s path was “unbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable.”
Hu Jintao just retired as China’s chief of state.
Lots of places need reinvention.
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