Sunday, February 7, 2010

Urgent: Solutions Needed for America and Canada

Looking at a wonderland of snow outside near Princeton, New Jersey, today, all is calm and quiet. The Washington National Cathedral had a fine service which I saw online this morning. In words to the audience, Cathedral Leaders were constantly mindful of the snow and grateful to those who did show up. Amidst all of this peaceful loveliness are those who look around at Canada and the United States and find fault. 

Two websites  have  recently listed in great detail the shortcomings of America and Canada. Citizens will criticize their own countries; just get them started, and the results are astounding to behold. Perhaps listing them is helpful to contain the issues, rather as meterologists summarize weather and archivists survey inventory. The point surely is, we need solutions and fast.

Orville Schell, a China scholar and former UC Berkeley Dean, now at the Asia Society in New York City, has assembled a list of strong and weak features of America.

Orville Schell -

America's strengths:

1) biotech
2) technology
3) civil society
4) American philanthropy
5) the American military
6) small-town life
7) the arts, both high-culture and pop

America's weaknesses:

1) public education "driven into the ground" from budget cuts
2) national energy system grid update needed
3) court system "struggling"
4) national park system "teetering above the abyss"
5) federal and state governments - "busted", essentially
6) interstate highway and water system updates needed
7) transportation updates of planes and trains essential
8) finance "system overhaul needed"
9) media over-commercialized, except the internet
10) overweight population
11) basic manufacturing "headed to China" or oblivion
12) American cities - "hollow and broken"
13) prison system - "pits of hopelessness"
14) global warming

Alas, my precious international readers, many of these, including climate change (#14) are common not only to America but to countries around the world.

Meanwhile, Canadians in Facebook blame politicians, especially Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, on breaking promises of all kinds, especially to cut taxes. He has also been taken to task on foreign policy, business policies, healthcare issues and job creation. All of these are issues with which the average citizen has little if any expertise or inside knowledge to referee. Canadians are free to criticize anyway, unfairly or not, but when will their issues be addressed?

Stephen Harper, Canadian Prime Minister - wikimedia

Many deep, long-standing problems in Canada are being blamed on the current Prime Minister, but Harper is also taking heat for proroguing Parliament and his criticism of a judiciary of "left-wing ideologues." For more, read this Facebook page: Canadians United Against Stephen Harper.

At the very least, as Americans and Canadians, we can console ourselves that all countries can find fault with themselves if given the opportunity. Listing disparate, incomparable issues can help put them in perspective; concrete form can organize them into a discrete space. What ultimately matters is whether we can find and implement solutions before we get more problems to solve.

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