Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Evolution of American Concerns!

Part of connecting to people is knowing what concerns them - knowing where their anxieties lie! The ironic thing about the U.S. is that there has been a fundamental shift in the last year away from focus of many Americans on the Iraq War and our national security, to concern about the economics of this country. This occurred first because of the mortgage crisis and second because of energy prices, and their impact on food and seemingly all other prices.

Today, it seems like a distant memory when most Americans were concerned most about whether the "Surge" would work or not, whether Iraq would continue to spiral down, - for those times now do seem many years past. The time now is measured instead by the moments when we have to fill up our tank, buy groceries, pay some new surcharge or fee - all which are required to cover the energy crisis we now find ourselves. This is the new economic reality inescapable for the bottom 95% of Americans. However, this change in the American concerns struck me only recently while watching Lifetime's Army Wives. I realized that the concerns of last summer when the show was first aired really do seem so far away - when the show's cliffhanger involved a possible terrorist attack on the post.

However, then it got me thinking. In WWII, the economics at home were far worse than they are now - when "Victory Gardens" were the way of most households had to deal with severe food and energy shortages. These were also the way that average Americans made their impact for the "War Effort!" Our ancestors worked as a country through the problems of WWII and the residual issues of the Great Depression with much more vigor than we seem to work now. The reality is that we still have airmen/women, soldiers, sailors and marines in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to failed policies of the current Administration, we also are less secure in the world, with more enemies and fewer allies. While the economics must be understood and addressed by each household, we must also remember that the security of this nation is still uncertain. Are we so much weaker from those Americans who pulled together in 1941-1945, and weathered a much more severe storm?

No! This is the time that we Americans must not become more isolated - but less isolated - from the communities we are in. We must pull together under our proud flag - and understand that both our security and economy are important to our common ground. We must remember that for those still in harm's way, or those who would be called upon to defend us in the event of another terrorist attack, security issues must be addressed - and we must also cultivate allies in the world. As one community we must also find ways, each of us, to reduce the use and reuse our resources locally - whether it is conserving water, energy, or food - buying locally, learning to garden/farm, and supporting local merchants whose goods are local and do not require transportation. We must find ways to increase our energy efficiency, and redirect our American lives which have for too long been carefree of such resource issues. These sacrifices are no less than our parents and grandparents made in WWII. Our time is now to show such similar heroism.

The real question that exists for us Americans is this - do we see this as the moment in time when we strike out in new directions, or hold on to the old ways? Do we come together as Americans - regardless of our party affiliation and solve tough problems, or do we allow our great political experiment that we started in 1776 to die a slow and ignoble death? Do we allow these to be the worst of times, or do we see them as opportunities for this Country and its Ideals to shine once more, again, brightly - as we learn to take up a new place in the world? Such necessities of our times don't require less connection to the world outside the US, or less connection to the communities we find ourselves, - but require that we connect more. What will history say about the 21st Century? You, my reader, are in as good a position to help write that history as anyone.

How will you help define our times - as the best of times - or the worst? In this matter everyone gets to decide equally.