I am fascinated, perversely, with the total and complete failure of the climate clean energy bill in the United States Senate, and have struggled to find a parallel in our time for such an event.
Rising temperatures, scientific consensus, public support, a Democratic Senate, House and White House, the unfortunate disaster in the Gulf in the news front and center -- and the bill didn't even come close. I think it's far too simple to blame the outlying Democrats, the obstructionist Republicans or the leaderless White House for the failure; I fear the reason for the failure is deeper and more devastating.
As I struggled to put these reasons into words, and spoke with many friends about the issue, Wikileaks released tens of thousands of pages on the failed war in Afghanistan and while the issue is completely different, the fundamental underlying reaction to it is not.
Our country and our lives have crumbled and are crumbling around us. The infrastructure of our nation is horribly poor. Walking around Boston with a knee brace, I have been reminded every few steps that we are nation, or at least Boston is a city, that can't even maintain its sidewalks. Bridges are getting washed away, our air traffic control system is a third world embarrassment, our schools are falling apart, the national debt is exploding, we are almost a decade into two lost wars, when in our history have so many factors combined to create a sense of underlying desperation.
Did I mention that one of four houses is negative equity on the mortgage? Or the rising obesity rates?
The relationship between the average American and the country at large, and the world around us, has become one of a bad marriage. In a bad marriage, both parties over time realize the marriage is fundamentally broken. Communication is gone, intimacy is gone, trust and love, gone. But often the parties, overwhelmed with the turn of events, become not focused on addressing the pain of the issues, but simply put their heads down and try to survive the day. They can't face the idea of addressing all the issues in the marriage, they can't see the path to improvement, they can't see how to get out, and they simply shut down.
We as a country have been and continue to be in the process of shutting down. And as we were, two years ago, another factor came into play. Americans have become used to -- in fact, dependent on -- an ease of life that no past generation has ever known. Information and news are at our fingertips -- no one has to go to a library to research anything, we simply Google it. Every piece of news and gossip and information is here, online in an instant.
On top of that, over the past fifteen years or so, financially, we have gone from a country where we worked and saved and planned for buying a car, a boat, a house to one of instant credit, and instant reward. Who needs to save for a downpayment? Who needs to save for a car when you can lease one? We've become a country of instant reward and instant solutions.
Two years ago, collectively, we saw the issues on the horizon, the economy was faltering, we have seen our schools crumble, our reputation fading, and we saw a path for instant reward and instant solution, his name was Barack Obama.
We embraced the absolutely unreasonable idea that one man, a decent man with better than average oratorical skills, would come in and fix everything that ails us. He'll fix Iraq and Afghanistan and our schools and our climate and don't ask don't tell and he'll fix our financial mess and the housing crisis. He'll make it all better, instantly.
It was a last gasp shot at recapturing past glory. It was the aging quarterback looking for one final Hail Mary pass. It was doomed to failure. And while Obama hasn't failed, our hope for him has because it was not based in reality.
So here we are, and what happens next?
I don't honestly know but I fear many things. I fear the rise of nationalism and racism because it's far easier to blame others than it is to face your own failings. I fear that we will continue to choke on cheap debt and the illusion of glory, focusing on the one person in the country who earns $100 million playing basketball, and not on the 100 million people who are struggling to pay their bill.
I fear that we have become lazy and fat and a society ill-equipped to deal with hardship and that our politicians will continue to fail us, because we continue to fail ourselves.
The crisis is here, or actually there's much more than one. Will we put our heads down again and again, or will we finally raise our heads up and begin to fight back?
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