When I meet people from other parts of the world, I often ask them, “What do you believe is wrong with America?” I get different answers, but the answer that has impacted my thinking mostly is the one I received from my new friend from Australia; not just because it was right on the money, but its grand simplicity at addressing our core issues. Before I tell you what he said, I want you to consider some of the nightmarish things that go on in our great and prosperous land. Take the recent events that are transpiring in Baltimore, Maryland where groups have taken to the streets, vandalizing, stealing and threatening the very fabric of the city. This has occurred supposedly because a black man was killed in transport to a police station. Since a large part of the Baltimore police force and administration is black, I think this falls outside the scope of racism and is a much more deep-seated problem in our inner cities. If this occurred as reported and the police were responsible for this death, there should be prompt and serious action taken against these officers. There is little doubt, based on recent videos and accounts, that many of our police departments have small rogue elements who are capable of all kinds of barbaric behavior. In Baltimore it began as a peaceful protest, but our press wanted little to do with such a non-spectacular event. This is when it gets very interesting. The angry, poor and unemployed decided that this would be a great opportunity to act out and maybe get a new TV or just have some anger-induced fun! These are not people with jobs and fulfilled lives but people who have lost hope in the system that has poorly educated them and so, given them little hope for the future and generally subjugated them to a life of getting high and selling drugs for a living. People with decent jobs and families are generally not out on the streets causing mayhem, but people who have lost hope are screaming loudly in the only way they know that their life in America’s inner cities suck!
Now consider the folks in our country who are trying to survive with a job at Wal-Mart or McDonald’s on a meager wage that provides only a modicum of what it takes to live a respectable life in this wealthy country. Try to raise kids, have a home, pay the heat bill, buy food, service a car, see the doctor when needed on a salary that amounts to as little as $14,000 a year. There is no doubt that we as a nation spend countless billions of dollars on programs to help people struggling to survive, but the results of these programs are difficult to assess accurately and spread thinly over a large range of problems. Somehow, we as a people must find a way to allow all to have dignity and self-respect. No longer can we allow more and more people to “fall through the cracks” and become less likely to be a useful member of society. If we do not change our ways, Baltimore and Ferguson will become the norm is this country. Inner city riots will be routine events. Eventually the media will lose interest and riots will become a small byline, but the riots will escalate until someone in power listens and is willing to do something about it, or the problem will migrate from our the cities to our gated communities that the rich believe offers them a sanctuary from civil disturbance.
So, what is wrong with America? As my new friend said to me in his Aussie way, “You folks don’t take care of one another.” When he said this, I sat there for a few moments taking in the grandiosity of his simple statement. Isn’t that what the bible says in Matthew in 22:39?- “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Aren’t all men our neighbors in the eyes of God? So, what is wrong with our country? The answer is right in front of us if we could only open our eyes to see that we need to start caring for all people. Thanks, Gerry, for the incredible insight!