Three things above all else

There is a long list of worthy pursuits our elected representatives should be working on but are not. Three rise above all others, however. All three are crises we can ill-afford to ignore.

The first is the crisis of faith in the American political system and almost total lack of confidence in elected officials and the major political parties. Most Americans do not believe their votes count for much, do not believe their voices are heard, and do not believe their interests are being served. They have good reason for those beliefs.

Supposed representatives of the people ceaselessly cater to a privileged few at the expense of the many. Nearly 120 years after bribing elected officials was outlawed in Wisconsin, a new form of legal bribery has sunk deep roots in today’s political terrain. Most Americans now assume politicians are bought and our government is owned by the rich and powerful. They have been given reasons upon reasons for forming this opinion.

The design the nation’s founders gave us has been corrupted. Both major parties have made their peace with this corruption. Even the most honorable among today’s elected officials have been far too accepting of a crooked system and way too willing to work within it. Most Americans can’t help but notice the leadership vacuum, which further deepens the crisis. If there is no course correction, if democracy is not rescued, little else of value can be accomplished.

A second crisis is the widespread fear that future generations will be worse off than those who came before them. This anxiety unravels the article of faith that is central to the American Dream and leaves too many among us resigned to the inevitability of national decline. Broad public acceptance of the notion that the American Dreams of future generations must necessarily be downsized is as poisonous to our country as the subversion and perversion of democracy.

Today’s lack of trust in government is as understandable as it is correctable. But given the upbringing of so many of us, the erosion of faith in the future of our country is curious. Most of us were taught to believe in the Resurrection, to believe in one who conquered death, and to believe that He will come again. Yet the idea that America’s best days are behind her has spread among us like a virus. Nagging doubt about our nation’s ability to bounce back and sustain greatness has become contagious.

This loss of spirit can be overcome only through the sheer force of will. We have to start thinking big again.

Last but certainly not least among the things demanding attention but not getting nearly enough is the matter of our species’ survival. We cannot hurt the planet without harming ourselves. We cannot destroy the Earth and somehow sidestep our own destruction. Try as we might to ignore it or deny it, our fate is tied to the place we inhabit.

Global climate change is real, and of all of Earth’s inhabitants, we are among the most responsible for it. Truly accepting that responsibility will lead us to stop viewing environmental protection as the enemy of economic development. A healthy economy and healthy planet must go hand in hand, meaning that we need to insist on three healthy bottom lines in business. A truly successful company is financially profitable, treats its workers and customers fairly and well, and is a responsible steward of natural resources.

Speaking of bottom lines, being resolved to tackling the three existential threats to our democracy, to the American Dream and to our planet’s well being should be every American’s bottom line.