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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Sad World Indeed

Some days, I feel very sad. There are so many times when the things I read bring tears to my eyes.

I am saddened by what I read in the newspaper and on Facebook, and by what I see in my own city. Some things are are worldwide significance, while some affect only a small group of people.
  • Two major earthquakes in Nepal have left more than 8,000 people dead, hundreds of thousands homeless. Aid has been slow to arrive due to the isolated nature of much of the country, blocked roads and landslides, a small central airport, etc.
  • Some young woman from New York state has been visiting numerous national parks in the western U.S., and defacing them with her self-described 'art.' She paints her 'art' with acrylic paints that are very difficult to remove, then posts pictures of herself with her creations on Instagram. It's as if she is proud of her vandalism. Authorities know who she is and where she lives, so I hope she is arrested, convicted and sentenced to federal prison.
  • Tornados in the U.S. continue to wreak major destruction of large areas of the country's heartland.
  • Someone (or perhaps more than one) has been pulling down street signs in my neighborhood. The signs are atop stop signs, which are not pulled down. Is this really a fun thing to do?
  • School shootings, once unthinkable, continue to take lives. A recent shooting in Washington state left four students dead and another seriously injured.
  • Several police officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty recently. 
  • Protesters angry over the killing of a young black man aren't content to simply protest and march. Looting and burning now seem to be part of the protesters' agenda, although these destructive action most harm people in their own neighborhood.
  • The remains of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham were found and identified. Her alleged killer also is charged with the murder of another college student several years ago.
  • At the rate elephants in Africa are being murdered for their tusks (33,000 each year), the species may well be extinct in 20 years.
  • ISIS, the extreme Muslim group terrorizing the citizens of Syria and Iraq, continues its blood-thirty ways, executing innocent people.
  • Boko Haram, another group of Muslim extremists, continues to abduct school girls and force them into slavery and to murder innocent villagers.
  • In Kenya, uncontrolled growth in human activity is impacting both the movement of wildlife and the sustainability of people and land. The number of new crop fields, settlements and fences is staggering. The fences are all made with illegally harvested cedar.
  • A driver in Southern California hit three 13-year-old girls who were trick-or-treating as they were in a crosswalk. He struck and killed all three and then fled the scene.
  • Government-paid cowboys run newborn buffalo calves and pregnant cows to the point of exhaustion to force them back into Yellowstone National Park.
  • Wildlife and the environment remain under constant attack by special interest groups such as cattle ranchers and the oil and gas industries, who seem to feel that America's public lands are there for their exploitation.
  • Our so-called elected leaders seem to care only about the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. Meanwhile, the wealth gap between the 1 percent and the rest of Americans continues to grow.

Try as I might, I cannot begin to understand:
  • what joy some people find in killing an animal for 'fun,' or in destroying others' property.  Facebook recently has had several pictures of women grinning stupidly as they posed with the dead African animals they had shot, including an elderly giraffe and a baby monkey 
  • why the radical Muslims feel it is their right to kidnap, torture and murder people who are no threat to them. That is not what the Koran teaches.
  • how people can be so blind to the world around them and be so willing to sell out to the highest bidder
  • why some believe the laws don't apply to them.
I can't speak about people in other countries, but we Americans seem to have lost our moral compass. It is impossible to have a calm, rational discussion about politics without someone resorting to name-calling. The conservatives refer to those with more liberal points of view as 'libtards.' Liberals refer to conservatives as 'repugnicans.' The never-ending political ads on television are all about slamming the opponent, not stating what the candidate plans to do to make things better for the American public. And most of the claims are outright lies. Is it any wonder that the U.S. Congress has an approval rating of only 13 percent?

I recently read a column in the newspaper that I thought was very interesting. The columnist asked rhetorically whether the end of American society as we know it might be not too far off. He cited the rise, the glory and the ultimate collapse of the once-great empires of ancient Rome and ancient Greece, and he pointed out parallels to contemporary America. For example, there is too much economic inequality, and we are consuming the world's natural resources at an alarming rate. Our economy and traditional leadership in technological innovation are on the decline. Our education system, especially in the critical fields of math, science and technology, are falling behind other countries'.

It seems that no one is willing to take responsibility for their actions. Everybody pleads 'not guilty.' No one steps up and says 'Yes, I did it. I made a mistake. I'm sorry. I'll take the punishment.' People look for the easy way out. No one wants to own up to their actions. Everybody else is responsible. It's never my fault. My daddy didn't love me; my mommy fed me junk food. It isn't my fault. As an example, a college student who twice failed a required course in her chosen nursing curriculum is suing the university for her failure to pass the course. She claims the university didn't provide her the necessary accommodations, although the school did provide accommodations. Perhaps the only accommodation this student wanted was to have someone take the exam for her, or to get a passing grade despite failing the course.

I don't know what has changed, but when I was a kid my parents taught me to take responsibility for whatever I did and to accept the consequences. We were taught to disagree without resorting to name-calling. We were expected to respect our own, and other people's, property. I taught my daughter that actions have consequences, either good or bad, and that she and she alone has to assume responsibility for her actions.

Our governments are dysfunctional, with partisan politics overshadowing the public good. No public agency -- schools, police, courts, mental health facilities, hospitals -- ever has enough money, despite increasing taxes. Lawsuits are instigated for the most minor perceived slight. No one is responsible for anything. Everything is somebody else's fault.

I know there are still good people out there; I read about them sometimes. But the sad thing is, these acts of kindness and heroism shouldn't be so rare as to make the news. They should be the way we act and the way we treat each other. I was so pleased when my daughter told me recently that she bought the drink for the guy in line behind her at the Starbuck's coffee shop, because someone had done the same for her a while back. Perhaps if we each pledge to do some random acts of kindness, we can start to change our cold, dysfunctional world. I don't know how we fix a dysfunctional and corrupt Congress. I do know we have to try to make our world a better place.