In the twilight of my life, I see the world changing dramatically. I won’t be here to see how it turns out but my children and grandchildren will be. I wonder what kind of world I am leaving behind for them.
My generation held certain truths to be self-evident. We believed that we should try to make things better, that we should work to change society, to make it more hospitable for its weakest and most unfortunate members while providing opportunities for the brightest and hardest working – not just the luckiest.
And it seemed for a while that we were making progress.
So many good things happened. There was the civil rights movement, for example. And the United Nations. And all those altruistic groups – UNICEF, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Peace Corps…
Granted, the execution was sometimes flawed, but the intent was good. And regardless of political persuasion, most of us accepted the need for the strong to help the weak. This was especially true in the religious community.
And we learned important lessons. We learned that war is hell. The mighty British empire crumbled in the wake of two world wars. Americans were chastened by the wretched Vietnam adventure.
It was a surprise to watch the United States rush heedlessly into Iraq and Afghanistan. I had thought the world knew by now how fruitless it can be to occupy someone else’s country and try to bend them to your will.
I suppose it was Nine-Eleven that changed everything.
And now, in the wake of the American debt ceiling settlement, the world will change even more.
America’s economic domination is fading, but its bellicose foreign policy persists. True, the debt ceiling “deal” includes significant cuts in military spending but there is no sign of abatement in the renamed but unchanged “war on terror.”
The forces now shaping American society are prepared to inflict ever-increasing misery on their country’s sick and disabled, and on seniors, single mothers and poor children, in order to provide resources for waging endless war.
And they have convinced the majority of American voters that – as the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping proclaimed back in the Eighties – to be rich is glorious (poster above depicts Chinese gods of wealth).
The world’s leading democracy appears to have accepted the idea that the way to create prosperity is to make the rich richer and the poor more wretched.
Strangely, this idea prevails even in the religious community, where xenophobia and mindless dogma fuel inexorable hatred of Muslims and others who do not share their convictions.
The concept that God is love seems to have vanished.
It’s “Onward Christian Soldiers” now.
As I ponder the future, I cannot see America maintaining its global leadership. Its economy is crippled and – as far as I can see – the remedies chosen to cure the economic sickness will only make it worse.
And – even more tragically – the country seems to have abandoned the noble moral standards that won the world’s respect.