The Future Is Not Bleak

The Future Is Not Bleak


Leonard Zwelling

         This front page story in The New York Times of June 13 by Lisa Lerer and Dave Umhoefer relates the general feeling in the country, along the full political spectrum, that things are not going well at all in America. Chuck Todd reported on Meet The Press that 80% of Americans think the country is out of control. Mainly, the consensus suggests that no matter who wins the election in November, the immediate future is bleak—politically, economically, socially and spiritually.

         Such a conclusion may seem to make sense to most Americans. The country has been hit by the triple whammy of the coronavirus, the subsequent economic lockdown, and now racial discord after the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent demonstrations for racial justice and against the police force. It is indeed reasonable to be down especially if you are one of the many who has lost work, is working cooped up from home, or is the victim of racial bias. I get it, BUT…

         I recently wrote that this current period of American history seems very reminiscent of 1968 with civil rights unrest, a war in Southeast Asia, demonstrations in the streets with violent cops, and a lethal virus plaguing the world. We got through that. We will get through this.

         I do not believe that these setbacks in the American experiment mean that the experiment has failed. In fact, just the opposite. This is as it should be. We meet outside misfortune (the virus) in a messy fashion. We overreact and wind up making the economic situation worse simply because we were unready and unwilling to do what was needed with regard to testing and quarantining as several smaller countries were able to do or that China can mandate. Thus, our economy took a huge hit. And nothing compares with the African-American experience of the past 400 years. There is no road map to guide current leaders through the Scylla and Charybdis of years of racial discrimination and those in the white community who wish to refight the Civil War.

         I believe that it is only America that can handle this and only America will.

         As for the virus, the solution is obvious, scientifically-based, and thus far avoided by governmental leaders. Hand washing, social distancing, masks and the avoidance of crowds MUST be the new normal. At all times. Even in Tulsa. This cannot be optional any more than speed limits are optional in downtown Houston. If governments wish to suspend this plan, they do so at the risk of the elderly, so at least keep the likes of me at home.

         The economy will gradually come back, but there will be new rules for shopping and the move to on-line merchandising may have been accelerated by the virus. Amazon is flying high. JC Penney, not so much. That was going to happen anyway. The key concern I have is for small businesses and the care they deserve, the support they need, and the patronage they have earned. We must figure out the way to do this. In our house we have elected to take out dinner more often than we ever ate out before simply to make sure restaurants in Houston survive. It’s that important. Do what you can.

         The fight for racial justice is obviously not over and surely a consideration of the role of police in American society is long over due. Nonetheless, let’s remember that the true beginning of any American move toward racial equity was in 1954 with the Brown decision overturning Plessy v. Ferguson, Jim Crow laws, and the heritage of Reconstruction. The country took almost 100 years to really embody the tenets of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments if it has even yet.

         Our democracy is messy. The Founders knew that was going to be the case. Our Supreme Court cannot even come to agreement on what is and what is not constitutional. Of course, we’re a mess and ought to be glad we are. Not a mess means autocracy and that is what is truly unacceptable. The real fear of those who dread the re-election of Donald Trump is that without his need to campaign again, he will turn into a true autocrat. I do not fear this. I still think Congress, the Courts and, as we have seen of late, the military may be there to save us.

         Many people worry that if Trump loses he won’t give up power. Fear not. As we have seen in the apology of General Milley and the outrage among senior commanders who have retired, the democracy is actually in pretty good, thoughtful, and powerful hands.

         Did Trump, the virus and the killing of George Floyd stress the system? You bet. The system bent. It did not break and will not.

         The opening line of The Godfather still applies. “I believe in America.”

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