DeVon was energetic, funny, irritating, delightful, yet always respectful. English wasnít easy for him, but he made an honorable effort. One day as I began to discuss the dreaded and required junior research paper, DeVon, who, of course, sat in the back of the room, put his hands over his ears and said, ďla la la la I donít want to hear this.Ē
And that is how I feel about the next 11 months of presidential campaigning.
I donít want to hear Gingrich savage Romney; Romney savage the president; Santorum hold forth on social issues and the decline of America, and Paul say if we just got rid of it all we would be just fine. I donít want any more Perry gaffes shown over and over; we donít need to delight in someone elseís embarrassment.
I donít want to hear the various candidates and their super pacs spout half truths in the interests of collecting votes. I donít want to be barraged with endless ads, commercials, announcements, robocalls telling me we are all going to hell in a hand basket and if I just voted for----America would be restored to its former glory and all would be well. . No, I donít want to hear any of it, not one bit.
What do I want to hear? I want to hear someone speak with reason, with wisdom, and with concern for the values of honesty, and justice and civility. I donít want to hear about the tea party attacking the democrats, the libertarians judging the moderates, the left of the right or the right of the middle or the anarchists or the independents calling each other vulture capitalists or socialists or...I am tired of name calling..I donít want to hear about labels; I want an end to typecasting.
It is about time for someone, somewhere, with the courage, the audacity, and the integrity to speak to the truth about life in the United States in the 21st century. The paradigms are shifting and we are living through a time of great social and economic and cultural changes that we have yet to fully grasp.
I would like an honest, realistic description of world of work that is changing even as I write this. It is not about Ďbringing jobs back to America, though indeed, some manufacturing jobs are returning. But we can hardly base a renewed economy on that possibility. Some types of work will probably never return to the United States; it is now a global marketplace and work place.Some unskilled or semi skilled jobs which once helped people improve their life circumstances will eventually be replaced by robotic arms or similar mechanical devices.
íRemember when every toll booth had a person? Remember telephone operators; ever use a self scan cash register? There are countless more jobs that have disappeared as workers were replaced by mechanical and electronic devices. That is the direction of much of the work of our world. How do we respond to those changes so that we develop a suitably educated work force prepared to find meaningful employment in this new digital, globalized world.
Think of all the jobs that now exist that didnít exist ten years ago; imagine the changes in the world of work that are in store for our youth. How will we prepare them for this world of rapid change; a world that will require skills that perhaps donít even exist now? That is our challenge, and that is a challenge that we as a nation must consider and meet, not with eliminating this and cutting back that and refusing to teach this or that for spurious ideological reasons, but with thoughtful consideration, serious, honest planning, and the possibility that all of us will have to create an environment in which learning is valued. Who will step out and speak to this need in thoughtful and well informed way?
I remember when vultures and possums were creatures of the south, of warmer climes. They now inhabit our north country. Flocks of robins now live here year round; migratory creatures return north earlier, leave for the south later. Their biological responses to the world they inhabit are telling us something we need to acknowledge. We have soiled our planet and need to be willing to sacrifice to heal as much as possible; restore, what we can, and conserve it for our childrenís future. Yes, climate change is a reality; yes, we have and are contributing to the warming of the planet. Yes, the disappearance of countless species of plants and animals diminishes the quality of all of our lives. Who will address these concerns? Who will say that all of us will have to make sacrifices, alter our lifestyles so that future generations have a more sustainable world.
Generations from now we as a nation will not be judged by our technological wizardry or by the wars we fought, or by goods we produced, but by how we have taken care of the most vulnerable of our populations: the aged and infirm, the poor (most of whom are actually working poor); the disabled, and our children. As a nation which upholds as a standard for all nations to live by, the right of all people to live with dignity, and opportunity, how we address the needs of those vulnerable populations will determine the moral health of our country.
We are a nation, not a cluster of individuals. I hope that someone will speak to the need for all of us to strive not for our own self centered well being, but for the well being of our national community. Like it or not, ours is a commonly shared world; yes, as Donne said, ďany manís death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.Ē Once we again see ourselves a community striving for common goals--as we have in the past when facing World War II--then perhaps we can, with neither judgement nor condemnation, develop and enact reasonable solutions to the economics of poverty, the struggles of the poor.
And I am tired. Tired of divisiveness. Tired of political self-agrandisement. Tired of clattering voices speaking half truths over the din of other half truths. Tired of those who would divide our country into factions, into a culture of us and them where nothing is accomplished, and contention prevails.
I am waiting. Waiting for a voice of civility. Waiting for a voice of wisdom. Waiting for a voice that will speak not from ideology or political ambition, but from deep concern for the future of our country and its people.
Now and again a bruhaha bubbles up over the phrase Ďunder Godí in the pledge of allegiance. Imagine, if instead of debating the appropriateness of this statement in a secular pledge of allegiance in a pluralistic culture, we would instead focus on the final words of the pledge: ďwith liberty and justice for all.Ē When we work to achieve that goal; when we can use our vast intellectual and moral and spiritual and physical resources to achieve Ďliberty and justice for all,í then we truly will be a great nation.