Tremendous concern for the country I love and appreciate weighs heavily on my mind. More and more, I fear maybe the Fat Lady is preparing to sing about America. The “fat lady singing” is based on a supposed tale about a child sitting through an opera who asks a parent when it will be over. “Not until the fat lady sings” is the answer. America has been a great country, but I fear the end of this greatness that has not only served Americans well, but has helped make the whole world a better place is coming to an end.
All around us I see indications of this possible impending doom. It shows in the current Presidential election process. The two Democrat candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, are promising what clearly cannot be delivered and would be disastrous for the country. They are also pandering to various groups, especially black and Hispanic voters. In addition, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faces suspicion of questionable, if not criminal, actions.
Then there are five remaining Republican candidates whose debates, in part because of format, have become devoid of substance. Further, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio are (as of Feb. 29) carrying on what I consider a disgusting display of meaningless verbal exchanges that are beneath the reasonably expected conduct of an American President. These men are talking about each other’s sweating, make-up, water-drinking, lying, poor spelling and so forth. Granted, Ted Cruz is in this fray, but with less of a school-yard brawl approach.
It is this brawling like kids and avoidance of serious issues that make citizens wonder what we have come to by way of electing a president. As though this is not enough, add to it an astronomical national debt, unfunded liabilities that make the national debt look miniscule, a Congress that is doing absolutely nothing, a President who conducts himself as a dictator determined to destroy all that made America great, courts that legislate, terrorism raging, immigration (illegal and legal) out of control and a deafening entitlement mentality across the nation. I could go on with issues not being addressed, but this is more than enough to show that the “fat lady” has to be warming up.
My frustration and disgust because of what is described in the preceding three paragraphs is made worse by the fact that this is nothing new. The anger level among citizens might be higher than usual, but everything else seems unchanged. With the exception of Ben Carson and, to a lesser extent, John Kasich, it is business as usual. That is, play to the crowd, do not inform and press to win.
I spent about 18 months deeply involved in the political process leading up to the 2014 elections. I pushed for efforts that would educate citizens regarding issues. One man who was far more involved than me said, “We have to win in order to govern.” The problem with that approach is politicians do the kinds of actions described here and when they win cannot govern because divisions have been created and promises made that cannot be kept. For the most part, this result occurs because of uninformed voters who act on emotion and self-interest.
In the midst of my lamenting all of this, a new friend told me about a book by John P. Kotter titled A Sense of Urgency. Kotter talks about why many businesses fail or do not perform anywhere near full potential. While focusing on businesses, he comments that what he presents as a danger to businesses can also “undermine a whole country.” As I started reading the book, I had that thought and then he said it.
So, let me share some of what Kotter writes and relate it to addressing the rapid decline of America. He opens by stating that what is needed is a “true sense of urgency. In this context, urgency means “of pressing importance.” When people have a true sense of urgency, they think that action on critical issues is needed now, not eventually ... Now means making real progress every single day. Critically important means challenges that are central to success or survival, winning or losing.
I see nothing happening at any level of government in this nation that indicates there is a true sense of urgency about anything. Look around. Show me one issue that is being addressed with urgency as Kotter defines it. Healthcare, the Veterans Admiration, terrorism, infrastructure maintenance, unemployment, economic development … give me one, just one.
Then there is the danger in failing to recognize when change is needed. If people do not have a sufficient sense of urgency, very likely they will not look for changes that are happening externally that require internal change. For example, the world around us is changing. Nations that see the United States as their enemy are getting nuclear weapons, developing enhanced military capabilities and even funding terrorists who want to destroy America. I do not see that we are responding to these external changes with appropriate internal change.
Kotter says, “The first step in creating a true sense of urgency is to deeply understand its opposites: “complacency and false urgency.” Of complacency he writes: “The dictionary says complacency is a feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger or trouble.”
I contend complacency is an issue in our nation. There is growing anger, but it is accompanied by tremendous unawareness of the danger and troubles facing us. For example, Ben Carson talks about unfunded liabilities. The Federal Government has a responsibility to pay benefits such as Social Security, military retirees and so forth into the future. In order to make those future payments, the government must have a certain amount of money invested in the present. The extent to which that current amount is not available for investment creates an unfunded liability. A February 2014 article by Gary North reports that Professor Lawrence Kotlikoff of Boston University says the Congressional Budget Office did two reports. One which Kotlikoff does not trust put unfunded liabilities at $47 trillion while the one he trusts showed $205 trillion. Either is an astounding figure. How many Americans are watching this kind of destructive situation and acting to correct it? I suggest not many and that is complacency.
Given the definition of complacency, I contend politicians in general are even more complacent than the general public. They maintain the status quo while giving no indication of a true sense of urgency.
Kotter continues, “Anxiety and anger drive behavior that can be highly energetic, which is why people mistake false for true urgency. But the energy from anger and anxiety can easily create activity, not productivity, and sometimes very destructive activity.” I say we are surrounded by what he describes here. People get angry about some situation and politicians respond with activity. That is happening in this Presidential election. There is a lot of activity in response to citizens’ anger, but no productive addressing of the critical issues facing us. Now the process is turning destructive.
All of this reveals a picture of a great nation in serious trouble as reflected in: 1) a failing presidential election process; 2) the multitude of critical issues not being addressed with true urgency; 3) almost non-existent recognition of threatening changes happening around us; 4) complacency among citizens and far too many politicians in a debilitating state of complacency; 5) anger running rampant and generating activity, but no productivity … only movement toward destruction.
I pray there is still time to prevent the Fat Lady from singing. If we are to do so, we must look for critical opportunities and hazards now... then address them with true urgency. This is serious.