I recently encountered a brutally insightful observation while teaching in my college’s English as a Second Language program. While discussing the depression and anxiety that seems to affect amazingly many Americans, a student asked an entirely innocent—but amazingly telling—question: “Why are Americans unaware of how lucky they are?”
We should all seriously consider this as we overspend, under-appreciate, and “unperson” ourselves toward national disaster.
Enough is never enough for many Americans, who are blessed to live in a nation that has historically been rich in both resources and opportunities, and politicians who like to hand out goodies are well aware of this fact. Consequently, catastrophic borrowing and spending at all levels of government over the past several decades has put our nation into the poorhouse. To this point our ability to carry both onerous debt loads and play pretend regarding financially unsustainable future obligations has been made possible by the Federal Reserve’s policy of ruthlessly suppressing interest rates in order to reduce borrowing costs. Therefore, we can blithely continue to live far, far beyond our means—to our great detriment.
However, this monetary policy also leaves the U.S. vulnerable to ruinous price inflation that could result in the worst of all possible double consequences for our country: escalating prices eroding the value of our dollars while more of our money is taken in taxes to pay off crushing government debts and obligations. The years ahead for our nation are going to be a political dog fight over scarce public funds that will provide few solutions to problems created by profligate elected officials and their special interest enablers.
Reasonable police reforms are also being impeded by magical thinking that has now been transformed into an insane syllogism: Because we occasionally have problems with police officers using excessive force, we must defund and abolish police departments everywhere. Although it is both disturbing and frightening when police officers use excessive force, these cases constitute a minuscule portion of total police-civilian interactions over the course of time. Moreover, it must be acknowledged that even legitimate and lawful uses of force look terrible on a cell phone video—policing is sometimes a grim and violent job.
Every effort must be made to carefully evaluate use-of-force policies and dismiss officers who violate the public trust. However, public officials who believe that demonizing anyone wearing a badge is helpful are, in fact, making their communities far less safe. If police officers believe they will be attacked and belittled at every turn, they are far less likely to put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public whom they are sworn to serve.
In addition, tacitly (and sometimes explicitly) encouraging violent attacks on the police will make officers far more wary of the public and more likely to meet any confrontation with a tough, defensive response in order to ensure they go home alive at the end of their shifts. Public officials and ideologically-driven critics are themselves creating the conditions for the next police-civilian tragedy with their inflammatory rhetoric—which they can afterwards use to justify further attacks on law enforcement. However, for reasons that surpass understanding, many eat up this incredible lunacy with a spoon.
We do not appreciate the professionalism and sacrifices of the police officers whom we are daily castigating, and we fail to realize how fortunate we are to live in incredible safety compared to much of the world around us.
Finally, and saddest of all, we are foolishly throwing away the greatest benefit of living in America, our freedom of speech—and this is now becoming a clear impediment to the smooth functioning of our nation’s democracy. We hunker down and keep our mouths shut because of legitimate fears regarding our safety and livelihoods should we make a comment that inflames the social media mob and results in all manner of slander and harassment by total strangers who feel it is their sacred duty to silence those whose opinions differ from their own. Unfortunately, if the majority of Americans—as is now apparently the case—conceal their true beliefs, suspicions are sown, debate is stunted, and solutions are elusive.
We have problems—all nations do—but our failure to realize how fortunate we are while throwing away our national wealth, our personal safety, and our single most precious freedom is appalling. We need think carefully about the damage we are inflicting on both ourselves and our country through sheer foolishness.