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Back to the Dark Ages

Believe it or not, it took an article on cannabis research in Canada to get me thinking along the lines of this essay. With legalization of marijuana in Canada has come a wave of interest in scientific research on the plant’s effects across a wide variety of behaviors and diseases. Since cannabis is a widely used drug, and has been for ages, the fact that we have very little knowledge about it and that the United States still prohibits most research on it, is one more instance of us sticking our head in the sand and choosing to rely on myth, rumor, and partisan beliefs when real evidence could easily be discovered.

Cannabis research is just the tip of an iceberg that represents a dark ages mindset that characterizes America, probably more than many other developed country. We are almost alone in considering man-made climate change an unproven fact. There are still large segments of the population that reject evolution and fight tooth and nail to have biblical creationism taught in our public schools. Our arguments about the effects of gun control and gun proliferation most often fly in the face of data and anyway, are never argued on the basis of data, while, like cannabis research, we don’t allow our CDC to pursue gun deaths as a medical issue to be investigated with science. We cling to an outmoded private method of funding our healthcare, which yields poorer results and greater costs than virtually any other developed nation’s, with the private system’s proponents claiming that our system is better than and the envy of every one else.

Perhaps most egregious, is that our “land of opportunity” has created the largest income inequality in the developed world, and our immigration system  (which faces a miniscule influx of illegal immigrants and refugees compared to many European countries), is barbaric and determined by our political leaders’ xenophobia and our citizens’ fears of being “invaded” by the poor and displaced. We have developed a system that is dedicated to propping up the wealthy and privileged, while preaching self-determination and individualism to the poor and deprived. A recent study found that a poor 18 year old in repressive China has a greater chance of outperforming his parents in terms of income and education than a poor 18 year old in America. 

Our current zeitgeist, which consists of protectionism and isolationism, fails to acknowledge that we may be Americans, but we are also part of a larger world of humanity and, as human beings with values, we have obligations to keep peace, to raise others, not just Americans, out of grinding poverty, and to protect the rights of the downtrodden. From the middle ages right up through the age of empire and WWI, we lived in a world where every major power spent most of its time jockeying for position against the others. We are slipping back into that mindset, and America is leading the way.

Our political system, while showing some life and responsiveness to the public’s outrage in the last election, is ossified. As the Gilens and Page study found a few years ago, our legislative and government policy decisions are responsive to the wishes of the wealthy and corporate-connected, not to the average voter who puts them in place.

I have some hope for the new brand of progressives in our country, although I am dismayed by those on the fringe who forsake legitimate political activity for violence and disruption (except nonviolent protests, which are a valuable tool if tied to a real political agenda). I also dislike such a strong focus on identity politics that it overshadows the needs for programmatic change, and the system-wide factors that continue to make race and gender issues that divide us on the opportunities available to us as individuals. I hate racist, sexist opinions and comments, but spending more time on searching them out and identifying even their disguised presence instead of developing active ways to insure greater equality is not going to make enough difference in enough people’s lives. Racist and sexist opinions are related to racist and sexist behaviors and, don’t get me wrong, they need to be called out, but calling them out is not a political agenda. Nevertheless, progressivism recognizes inequality, recognizes the need to modernize our healthcare and educational systems to the level of the rest of the developed world, and views justice and fairness as its ultimate goals, and I hope it’s the wave of the future.

We have a long way to go to elevate our country to the status it has held for decades as a leader in promoting values and freedom. We can’t talk the talk but abandon the actions needed to preserve our country’s honor here at home. 

Reader Comments (1)

"...elevate our country to the status it has held for decades as a leader in promoting values and freedom."...Frankly I shudder to think what those values really are and what concept of freedom we have promulgated in the world. Life really is far more than unfettered property rights and the "right" of a few to take from so many.

November 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDariel Garner

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