The United States is in crisis mode and feels like it has since roughly 2014. There were abnormal and bizarre mass shootings like the Aurora shooting in 2012 that seemed to be hinting at something weird but life still seemed normal. When the Obama administration's militarization of the police collided with racial tensions in Feguson, Missouri, however, the U.S. got crazier than I've ever seen.
I was in Berkeley that year. I saw swastikas painted on cars and witnessed storeowners yelling loudly to black customers, "Get out of here, nigger!" It's marginally better now - the protests surrounding Trump are not nearly as venomous although there is an air that we are in some sort of social transition.
Donald Trump's presidency, less than a half a year in, seems to be on the verge of implosion. The firing of F.B.I. head James Comey along with the apparent revelation of classified information involving an Israeli agent among ISIS to Russian diplomats has brought Trump to the edge. Columnists like Ross Douthat and leaders of both parties are calling him to resign. A special counsel has been set up to inquire about Trump's collusion with Russia. He may be the biggest failure of any western leader in a long time and it seems that people like Paul Ryan knew from the beginning.
Trump didn't arise out of a vacuum. Whatever or whoever caused it, and there were so many factors, the climate in the United States in recent years was extraordinarily bad. No one can function in the sort of social climate that modern Americans have presented themselves with. The very fact that Trump could arise on the dole of a major foreign power illustrates that foreign countries may have seemed like more attractive investments than anything here.
It is a bold generalization but most Americans are willfully ignorant. Much of the world has long, long memories - it is common in the Middle East for people to hold genuine grudges for events that occurred 1,000, 2,000 or even more so years ago. In China, families maintain small businesses that have been passed down for generations. China's massive infrastructure push, the Silk Road, is based on an infrastructure line that existed with the same name in the late first millenium A.D.
America was built up by people who came from the world largely to get away from those social restraints and the baggage of that history. They came here and changed their names from lengthy home country names in to stuff like Bush, Pence, Ryan, or, in my case, Powell.
This liberation from history may have seemed like freedom but, in the world we now are in, raising children devoid of continuity and tradition is disabling. It is asking and putting our children in a position of going it alone blind in competition with people from ancient countries like Russia, China and India, which have huge communities and traditions of thousands of years to back them up. These are filled with people who spend most their life in events centered around group identity, family and for whom history of a much longer time is very immediate. By only preparing our children to work for whoever will pay them, with no sense of the greater world, we are only setting them up as serfs for people who do have a sense of the greater world.
In the face of this world, I recommend Americans put extra effort in their life toward embracing tradition and continuity. Attend church, synagogue, mosque or some spiritual communal refuge regularly. Do something besides the daily grind for money. Research your family background and create a framework of it, something that you would be proud to transmit to a coming generation. Most importantly, research other people in the world. They know about us and have used it to their advantage. We will only be ignorant serfs if we never learn about them.
There are many world history books that can give a good overview of what has gone before. This is my big recommendation:
The Penguin History of the World by J.M. Roberts, https://www.amazon.com/Penguin-History-World-Sixth/dp/1846144434
Those are things that individuals can do in their own lives. There are policy improvements that need to be made in order to modernize America and bring it in to equal footing with the rest of the world. They are fairly straight forward. Donald Trump paid lip service to many of them as he conned his way to the presidency and Barack Obama took half measures toward them that didn't quite get there. Hopefully some politician or advocacy group can take them up, because the demand is certainly there.
Here they are:
- Single payer health care - There is no valid excuse or rationale for not having single payer "universal" health care. It is a staple of every major first and even second world country. Canada has it and so does Russia. Republican measures toward revoking Obama's Affordable Care Act are only making the eventual arrival of single payer (or "Medicare For All," as Bernie Sanders has put it) as more of a reality.
As conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer put it, no country ever has granted entitlement programs and then successfully taken them away. As Republicans brought forth a repeal of "Obamacare" and their own Affordable Health Care Act, Krauthammer said that the efforts were likely futile and that he thought we would have single payer within a few years.
- No more wars in the Middle East - If Vladimir Putin bribed Donald Trump in to the presidency, he did so without firing a single shot, let alone dropping bombs or sending in an occupying army. He has gained influence throughout the world, from Venezuela to China, through financial influence (he is extremely wealthy, worth around $98 billion).
What, then, was the point of our interventions in the Middle East? The removal of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi only helped facilitate the rise of ISIS. None of the wars there have done anything for the United States, instead only enriching the Persian Gulf countries whose interests were invested in intervention. America is a vast market for petroleum with or without military involvement - we do not need to be policeman of the world and we're not very good at it besides.
This doesn't mean isolation. There are ways of staying influential and maintaining a presence in the oil market besides military employment.
- Rebuilding infrastructure - American infrastructure is in terminal decay. Both Obama and Trump promised to modernize the infrastructure that was built up gloriously in the United States in the 1950s but which still hasn't. Eventually, as more bridges collapse and the Central Asian economies become more integrated thanks to Chinese infrastructure projects, the incentive to modernize will become inescapable.
Moreover, America needs a bold reevaluation of its own culture, on the same scale as post-war Germany. Americans so turned in to mythology their founding and founding leaders that the sudden questioning of its founding premise in recent years has been awkward and nerve wracking (take this New Yorker article by a writer who said maybe America was a big, tragic mistake).
None of America's problems in recent years were a mistake. They all occurred as a direct result of bad ideas that were ingrained in the very founding of the country. By regulating themselves with a constitution that enshrined these ill-fated ideas, Americans were never able to get out despite immediate need.
The bad founding ideas of America are the reason firearms are sold as commodities, with no regulation and even promotion in some states to fairly rigorous but not all encompassing regulations in other states, for the untrained. It's not as if countries like Canada, Israel, Switzerland or Norway don't have guns or gun crime even. (Hell, in Israel, it's required that one even trains to use a firearm as part of the military, meaning that, despite much more regulation, a higher percentage of its country is properly trained with weapons than a percentage own them in the United States.)
They don't have it on the same level because they don't have an equivalent to the Second Amendment, a carte blanche that was written for the sake of preserving slave hunting patrols and nothing else. That's all the Second Amendment was ever about and its why its biggest fans are racists.
Likewise with single payer health care, impediments have existed for socialized medicine that don't exist elsewhere because America institutionally set itself up as seeking the profit motive above any community need. Business influence is structurally allowed to influence decision making in a way it isn't in most other countries. As most the rest of the world is now catching up and even surpassing in material wealth, it's time for America to surpass its social darwinist ideas of market economics.
In 2017, much of America has regional and subcultural identities that mean a whole lot more than being "American," whatever on earth that means these days. In Berkeley, I see more shirts that say "California Republic" than I do of the American flag and that flag waves right next to Old Glory in many instances. If that or Texan identity or whatever means more than American identity, people should flesh these out more and take advantage of America's federalism by treating their various communities like independent communities.