As a youngster growing up in the Great Depression, I often heard my elders discuss the events that led up to that grim tragedy.
The good times bubble was popped on Black Tuesday, Oct.29, 1929, when the economy collapsed sending millions into the ranks of the unemployed, homeless breadlines and desperation.
Until President Franklin Roosevelt New Deal came along, there was no safety net for those stock speculators who were jumping out of Wall Street buildings least of all the millions of caught up in the great American tragedy.
Today as a 91-year old survivor of those grim days, I see some disturbing, alarming signs or frightening reminders of those desperate days.
The homeless camps are but one indicator. Drugs, gangs, pollution and school shootings define contemporary America. Education, health care and lack of stewardship to our public lands are in the toilet.
Other red flags are flying. Climate change pose even more daunting challenges. Our crumbling infrastructure bears witness to other failures. The rule of law is under siege.
Within the past 25 years, the quality of life index for Americans has plunged from first to 12th place. The plague-like exodus from the Trump administration does not inspire confidence.
For many of my generation, the American tragedy has been our inability to utilize our human resources to redress the social and economic woes besetting the nation.
Despite these warning signs, we have kept our heads in the sands of ignorance or apathy.
Christopher Swan, a San Francisco transportation planner, says the nation is committing “national suicide” with its failure to address critical issues.
History reminds us that where there is no vision the civilization perishes. The nation’s mental and physical health failures reminds us that we are indeed fat headed.
Several of my geezer pals are worried also. They fret over the lack of a national agenda. Rather than being proactive, let alone even reactive, we are doing little. “Rudderless”defines the nation.
In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration, Civilian Convervation Corps and a series of alphabet soup programs were launched to address the economic maelstrom that had overwhelmed the nation. What’s our back-up plan today?
For most of the past 60 years, the military industrial complex has been selling fear at the expense of nation building. The best defense any nation can have is a unified citizenry committed to the commonwealth.
Yes, there are a lot of bad actors out there chanting “Death to America.”
Many are critics of of our very own making – our own CIA Yankee imperialists. Unfortunately, the nation has worked itself into a financial hole with the $20 trillion national debt, limiting the our ability to fund vital services and make corrective changes. The emergence of bitcoin and other crypto currencies speaks to the growing fragility of the once mighty dollar.
If you are in a hole, you need to stop digging. America needs a new era of citizenship and stewardship, with growth defined by a quality rather than by wars of choice.
Former Fresnan Gene Rose, 91, of Oakland is a retired Bee reporter who covered the region’s national parks for decades. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.