Take, for example, all the earthquakes, mudslides and floods. When religious zealots talk the doomsday talk, I don't really pay much attention. But when the earth seems to be imploding only two years from 2012 the shaking terra no longer so firma, I get rattled. I mean, those Mayans knew a thing or two and this is starting to feel a little like the forerunner to some kind of Armageddon. I know that meteorologists and other scientific experts say there's no relationship to all the tremors (although there are climate change-induced weather patterns), but still, it's unnerving.
Then there are all those people in really responsible positions that have been acting so stupidly. I mean, taking your kids to the control tower of one of the world's busiest airports (JFK) and letting them clear pilots for takeoff does not do a lot for my flying phobia. Nor do reports of pilots reading their computers and chatting so fervently that they overfly their designated airport by more than one hundred miles. What if airline mechanics, who now for the most part live in countries requiring us to have passports, let their kids screw on a few bolts or sign off on repairs?
Another thing that worries me is the increasing control of the media by a few rich guys like Rupert Murdoch. I'm not a fan of the Wall Street Journal, but the proposed changes to that venerable paper since he took over are alarming, as is the drop in the quality of journalism in papers like The Washington Post, and sometimes The New York Times. Media ownership and control should be among the major issues of our day along with a crumbling physical infrastructure: Both are bound to catch up with us. But no one seems to take much notice of either. With electronic news rapidly taking the place of print journalism it is more imperative than ever to question the quality of sources and the controllers of information, and to hold editors to a high standard of fact checking and truth-telling. Not to mix metaphors, but none of us wants to be stranded on the bridge of truth and freedom of expression when it goes down.
And how about all those school closings? What is happening to the educational system in this country and how much further can standards fall before we can no longer keep up or compete with the expertise emanating from other nations? I teach young adults and returning adult students at several colleges and I'm appalled at how many of them can't reason soundly or write well. This suggests sloppy standards from elementary to high school. What alarms me even more is that other teachers, and some administrators, don't seem to mind. I've had students well along in their studies tell me that I'm the only teacher they've ever had who required them to be grammatically correct, to exhibit some originality or analytic ability, to consult a style manual, and to document sources properly. When students use sentence fragments, fail to punctuate properly, plagiarize and more, it is simply overlooked. So I end up being the bad guy in the eyes of lazy students. It's less than rewarding to say the least, but the larger issue is what have we wrought?
Teabaggers now those folks really scare me. How could there be so many people in this country resolutely incapable of understanding the facts? Maybe they just choose to ignore them, which is equally alarming. How can so many of these rabid activists lie so brazenly, and be so full of vitriol as to condemn an eleven-year old boy whose mother has died from cancer for lack of health insurance just because he spoke out in favor of health care reform? Honestly, if Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh aren't held accountable for that one, I don't know what it will take for America's right wing to muzzle them. And while I'm on this topic, what will it take for elected officials who disagree with the present administration's mission and agenda to behave civilly and to tell the truth, let alone to own up to their own responsibility for past political failings?
All in all, it's a pretty frightening time, if you think about it. Many of our systems and institutions are failing in unprecedented ways and the world as we've known it seems to be edging toward some kind of inevitable collapse. I don't think you have to be Jewish, or a chronic worrier, to see that. I just think it's time to deny denial and get on with the hard work of saving ourselves.