It is 2020, the start of a new year, of a new decade, of revived hope, of renewed determination. Tradition says it’s time for resolutions while reality says they seldom work. But there is, in fact, much amiss in this American nation we love, and we must fight back, peacefully, of course, but fight for the good under attack in so many ways, at so many levels.
You may think I am being trivial, but let’s start with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, the bright new face of the Democrats who recently stood close to the cranky, old face of Bernie Sanders. She said ours was not an advanced society, that we were in fact headed toward fascism. I personally doubt she knows any more about fascism than she knows about climate change, immigration or economics, but she’s on to something.
I mean, isn’t she herself in combat with our society’s advances? When she calls for a Green New Deal that would be a totalitarian wipeout of the economy, she does nothing for the cause of combatting climate change reasonably. Her calling the Electoral College a racist “scam” was incendiary fatuousness. When she talked of fascism, we know, she was referring to wily, wacko President Donald Trump and the supposed deplorables who support him. A traumatizing fact is that our would-be Democratic and bureaucratic saviors have outdone his in their transgressions and follies, some quite possibly leading to indictments, trials and convictions.
The scariness is that the expanding, mindless left sums up so much that is amiss, even though there is a lot that’s amiss that has nothing to do with politics. Let’s have a list that at least touches on some, if scarcely a fraction, of the worries.
First, we are reversing our longevity records with so-called deaths of despair through drugs, alcohol and suicides. American life expectancy is no longer climbing. It is heading downward. Much of it started with working class men as jobs went overseas or were taken over by technology, but now it’s most societal segments and is the foremost cause of death for people under 55. No small share of the blames goes to drug manufacturers that misled physicians that certain drugs used as pain killers were not particularly addictive when they were in fact crazily addictive, but drug smugglers are now a bigger enemy.
We are witnessing the demolition of the family. The issue is fatherless homes with too many fathers fleeing their responsibilities, women deciding to have children outside of marriage and divorce. Millions of children grow up with just one parent, and half of all children live without a father before the age of 18. The consequence for the children is more crime, a higher record of dropping out of school and a greater likelihood of impoverished adulthood, for starters.
Our public schools are not teaching children to read, at least not very well, and this is the single most important thing in their intellectual development. In 2019, a national test administered by an arm of the Education Department showed that just a little more than a third of students in the fourth and eighth grades were proficient in reading, a decline from 2017, the last time the test was given. A major cause is that too many teachers don’t teach phonics – sounding out words – even though experts have known for years that’s a crucial method.
Our public schools, meanwhile, also don’t teach patriotism the way they used to; I live near a school, for instance, at which teachers were telling students not to stand for the Star Spangled Banner at ball games. It’s true, too, that too many professors at too many universities bend too many student minds to their leftist ways of thinking in which Western Civilization is the source of all evil and America’s exceptionalism is a grotesque sham. Confronting faults is different from defamation, and it’s hardly unsurprising that many young people have no idea of what free speech entails or how capitalism has saved hundreds of millions from misery.
OK, I could go on about intellectuals telling us there is no truth, meaning that they aren’t telling the truth when they say as much, or how moral values of different cultures are all equal, meaning that they are lacking in substantive content. But I will note, instead, that we are the strongest, wealthiest, still freest and, in terms of personal giving, most charitable nation in the world. We shall overcome.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.