I've been thinking a lot about President Obama and the congress. There are a lot of people in America today, maybe not half, but a lot, who think that we’d have been better off with the other guy. There are many among us, in our nation family, who are battling for territory, resources, power, attention, respect.
When I was a little girl my older brother and younger sister and I fought, a lot. We used all the classic tools in the arsenals of children, name calling, manipulation, teasing, tattling, and no, we didn’t balk at all out physical assault. I was severely punished one day for throwing a telephone at my brother’s head (phones weighed about 10 pounds then). He had kicked me, hard, but Mama didn’t walk in until the telephone was in full flight, headed for a collision with my brother’s frontal lobe (contrary to what I would have said to him at the time there was no brain damage). Our house was often a battle zone, every kid for him or her self, in skirmishes over territory, the distribution of wealth and resources, even affection. We formed alliances, held peace talks, shifted party lines. We had fun too, don’t get me wrong, we played together and we laughed and we did chores and had friends, but we didn’t hesitate to hurt one another if we thought it would get us somewhere.
The one thing that disrupted this internal war was an attack from the outside. I could beat up my baby sister, but if you touched her, you’d better get ready because you were taking on me, and my big brother too. My brother wouldn’t hesitate to hit either one of us but he’d go toe to toe with you if you called us ugly names. My little sister Maggie wore glasses and I can’t even begin to count the number of times I got into it with some stupid kid who thought the epitome of humor was teasing a six year old until she cried. We didn’t hesitate to gang up on someone who was bigger than us either, joining forces to defeat a greater foe. The irony of this was completely lost on us.
Like the truces in my childhood home, calm moments occur in America's internal battles. A great man dies, a moment of national tragedy is remembered, these moments calm the internal din. They don’t end the skirmishes though, because they can’t hold our attention. The last things that held our attention long enough to get us all working together were World War II and the "Race to Space" against communist Russia.
Japanese Americans volunteered for war while their own families were interned in camps. Black men went to train at Tuskegee though in town they couldn’t drink from the same fountains as the white people whose lives they would soon fight to protect. Women turned in their nylons for the war effort, children collected cans to make munitions and later studied science to increase the nations "brain bank". Everyone did without. Everyone pitched in. While we certainly had our internal problems, we worked together to sustain our nation. The world was knocking on our door and it was bringing war with it. We would stand together to face that threat.
President Obama has detractors in America, but I believe he can use that "us against them" energy to bring our country together. He is after all, one of US. The real “enemy” to focus the fear and hatred on is planetary change.
There are things happening in the world today that are more frightening than anything we might have imagined during the war years. Our planet is in peril. It can be saved, and better yet, as in our battle to save the world from fascism, there is money to be made by saving it! Unfortunately, as in the years leading up to America’s involvement in WWII, we are unprepared and a high price is going to be paid for having waited so long to gear up for this war.
I’m talking about the race to own the solutions that give the world clean water, fresh food and CLEAN ENERGY to move our goods and services around the globe. The enemy is not a country or a people but a situation that must be solved and solved quickly if we are to survive. Eventually, to solve the problem we will have to pull together as a planet but if America wants to retain her place as Leader of the Free World she is going to need a nemesis, a competitor to race against. China is perfectly poised to be that focus. China is a nation on the verge of greatness.
Thomas Friedman writes in the New York Times,
It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power. China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down.
If President Obama wants to get the focus off of the internal differences, I am sorry to say, he is going to need to do something that is antithetical to his way of operating in the world. He is going to have to focus the attention of his enemies on a very real external threat. Someone is going to win the war on climate change by creating and producing technology that cures the planet. I want America to be that country. China is over taking us while we bicker and is happy to make massive gains while watching us quibble internally, the clock ticking away our chance to be a world leader in this arena. What’s amazing is that we are so focused on our internal fights that we don’t even yet realize this will soon be the only arena anyone is watching. It is very quickly becoming the only thing that matters.
Make no mistake, I understand that what I am suggesting is an appeal to something base in us. It is in our nature as humans to form groups for the purpose of survival, us against them. I look longingly toward the day when we finally get it as a planet that we are in this together. I don’t think that day is coming soon enough for this battle though. I think to win this one we’re going to have to make the focus nationalistic. Right now the two factions of America, Conservative against Liberal, Business against Environment, Nationalist against Globalist, are waging an all out Us-Against-Them war, but the enemy is not us! We need to turn our attentions outward. Time is short. Someday, when we’re all grown up and have learned to solve our problems like adults we will look back on this time from a different perspective. But America is a young country and I am not opposed to using the bluster of that youth for higher purposes. Are you?