Whatever anxiety we felt in 1979 was nothing compared to what we feel today. In contrast, 1979’s rampaging inflation and Iran hostage situation look like the halcyon days of yore compared to 2023.
Today we have much to be anxious about:
- Russian aggression against Ukraine, led by an increasingly isolated and paranoid thug who threatens to use nuclear weapons.
- A new Cold War with China that may prove difficult to keep from morphing into a hot war.
- Extremists taking over the U.S. House of Representatives, threatening to blow up both the U.S. and global economy while focusing on bogus investigations instead of the nation’s problems.
- Lowering of the congressional ethics bar to depths that make even limbo dancing impossible.
- Social media encouraging wild conspiracy theories and virulent hate.
- A gun culture gone so crazy that it makes Jules Feiffer’s Little Murders (google it) look like a Zen convention.
- Advances in Artificial Intelligence that threaten the livelihoods of millions of people and encourage students to cheat.
- Virulent diseases against which we have no warning and less protection, exacerbated by anti-vaxxers and a major political party hostile to science.
- Politics so polarized that the extremist wings of each faction want to see the other party wiped from the planet.
- A climate gone bonkers, accompanied by escalating climate denial on social media.
- A former president who is an existential threat to the underpinnings of this country while skittish prosecutors hesitate to bring him to account.
- Confirmation of the increasingly strongly held suspicion that there are, in fact, individuals who are above the law.
- A lopsided tax regime that favors the super-wealthy at the expense of everyone else and fuels obscene income and wealth inequality.
- A broken healthcare system.
- More than 100,000 people dying of opioid addiction every year amidst a prohibitively expensive “War on Drugs” that we have been losing for 50 years.
- A chaotic immigration regime that congressional Republicans resist fixing because repairing it would deprive them of an issue they believe wins them votes.
- Rising racism and anti-Semitism encouraged by irresponsible political leaders and generating an epidemic of hate crimes.
- Democracy under siege here and around the world.
- Millions of homeless Americans.
- A party that intrudes into the most intimate decisions a woman must make while violently objecting to salutary public health measures such as vaccination.
- Librarians who must resort to hiding books.
Appalled by what we face, people increasingly retreat into their own cocoons, thus allowing the perpetrators of these ills to continue to damage our lives, our livelihoods and our institutions without electoral or legal consequences for the evils they inflict.
Congressional Republicans do not appear to have much interest in tackling our many problems. Responsible conservatism has lost out to performance art.
Meanwhile, the downbeat goes on. We can only hope it does not beat us to death.
February 5, 2023