As is the tradition on July 4th in Atlanta, runners – some 55,000 of them – gathered early this morning for the running of the annual Peachtree Road Race. My girlfriend and I had a nice view of it from our apartment, and we cheered on the runners as they zoomed toward the finish line. It was inspiring not only to see the cheering masses urging the runners on but also the runners themselves responding to the cheers by quickening their pace and pumping their fists.
Rare is the time when one sees an informally large and diverse group of individuals from the community supporting the same cause, as was the case this morning along the streets of Atlanta. Even in the post-Obama era, we are defined more by our differences with one another than our similarities, whether in terms of political ideology, culture, or religion. That, of course, is not an entirely bad thing; indeed, such diversity is what makes the United States the envy of other nations. Yet if that envy is to be deserved, we, as a community – one that stretches beyond the next county line, but to the limits of the country – must band together and take on the problems that are now plaguing the nation, such as a limitless debt, astronomical health care costs, and mass incarceration. We can start by admitting that America is not the benevolent and seemingly invincible power that it once was, or, has continually proclaimed itself to be, and that what entitlement we have to so-called superpower status is due as much to our exploitation of others and luck as it is to our ingenuity and industriousness. We should seriously question whether our representatives in government truly reflect our values and interests, and if not, why we continue to tolerate such a situation. And do this not in an intellectual but human capacity. Go to an upcoming meeting of the city council and listen to what’s being debated (or not) and what positions your local council member is taking. I did this recently for one of the first times in my life as a member of a local public safety organization and came away from the experience a bit less disillusioned that I had been about the functionality of our political process. Will your concerns always be heard by our many tin-eared government officials? No. But one can almost be sure that the alternative of apathy and delusion will lead to much harsher and dangerous results. (See 9/11, neoliberalism, and our current financial crisis.)