Opinion: Taking stock of America as decade nears its end
As we near the end of this decade, it is a good time to reflect on where we stand at this moment in history. It’s not really standard cheerful holiday fare, but here goes.
Half the country hates or doesn’t want the duly elected president. The other half likes or tolerates him.
The two main political parties remain locked in a pathetic, never-ending dance of mutual destruction that has next to nothing to do with what’s best for the country.
Those in law enforcement are dispirited by being overworked, lack of funds and a bitter feeling that they are underappreciated by the communities they serve.
Many in minority or poor areas continue to feel the deck is stacked against them during every interaction with police or the courts.
Mass shooters — those who shoot or kill more than four people in one incident — continue to take innocent lives at record-breaking speeds. There were more mass shootings in the U.S. in 2019 than days in the year, more than 400 separate incidents so far. An unknown number of active serial killers roam America; some experts put the number in the thousands, and there are countless unsolved murders. More than 34,000 people died from gun-related violence this year. Another 25,000 were injured.
Still, the only solution our elected officials can come up with is to pass more restrictive gun laws, which, of course, will be ignored by criminals with guns.
It’s reported that on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner — more than 12 million men and women every year. Heartbreaking crimes against hundreds of thousands of children happened this year — crimes that included physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and exploitation through child pornography or sex trafficking. About 2,000 of these children died, but Washington doesn’t keep accurate track because no state reports its child-death statistics as required by law.
Embarrassingly crude and criminal content is posted on the internet and will live there for future generations to digest. Those in charge of removing it hide behind the First Amendment as cover for their failures. Children get cellphones and other gadgets that allow them to retreat from reality for hours on end, exposing them to the lurid postings of sick minds and teaching them that it is OK to tune out the world. Their narrow-minded internet exposure helps foster the lack of tolerance for others’ opinions.
Yet, there was positive news this year. There is increased prosperity across the land. The economy is strong. The United States has become the largest oil-producing nation in the world, thanks to expanded crude oil output from New Mexico, Wyoming and North Dakota. More Americans than ever before are employed, and wages continue to rise. College enrollment across all groups continues to rise, and racial and ethnic diversity is now the accepted norm. Opportunities for individual advancement are there for those who strive to succeed.
But money alone doesn’t solve intrinsic problems. Refocusing priorities does. We need to rethink our values and realize that when we focus solely on what’s wrong, we only diminish our future. When we help the young, the abused, the mentally ill, we are strengthening both our safety and our national soul.
At the core, we are a good and honorable people living in a country founded on solid principles: freedom of religion, opinion and the right to live life the way one chooses as long as it doesn’t harm another. Across America there are countless stories of people helping troubled neighbors; strangers pitching in after a natural disaster; and charitable organizations assisting the elderly and the disabled, and feeding and housing families after a fire or flood.
Now if we could only punch out of our political schism and find a way to draw on our better selves to address the country’s problems. Think of what could be achieved if we were to just stop fighting.
— Diane Dimond is a columnist with Creators Syndicate.