I heard two interesting NPR radio stories this week. The podcasts are probably available at KCUR’s website. To some extent, both of them raised as many questions as they provided answers.
The first was about a journalist who has traveled across the country stopping in neighborhood gathering places (restaurants, barbershops, coffee shops, etc.) to talk to people about their views on politics in the USA, and to get a better picture of the great divide that seems to be our reality. He clearly finds an urban/rural split, but finds that college towns, even small ones, are more likely to reflect the non-rural viewpoints. He finds that there is to some extent an elderly vs. younger split. Interestingly, unlike a few years ago, those with significant religious affiliations seem to be divided on both sides, not predominantly in one camp or the other. The other interesting thing – maybe just for me – is that income level doesn’t seem to predict which side of the divide you might be on.
Last week, I wrote about the action steps that Sojourners are recommending, and this week, Sojourners are distributing short commentaries written by a large group of faith leaders who all seem to be, for want of a more descriptive word, on the progressive side of the divide.
The other story I found interesting was on Canada. A researcher decided to actually do a side-by-side comparison between the U.S. and Canada. There are some physical characteristics that are assuming more power and meaning in the face of climate change. Canada has an ample supply of water. They will be less likely than the U.S. to develop large areas of desert-like, super-hot regions. They have a smaller population that has had large pockets of diversity – somewhat similar to the U.S. But their level of education is higher – 57 percent of adults have a college education compared to 42 percent in the U.S. Their standard of living and quality of life are higher. Their health status and longevity is better. The lifespan is about two years longer in Canada. And their traditional civility and concern for the entire community has not been eroded for the last 40 years as ours has been.
There are increasing numbers of immigrants crossing the border from the U.S. into Canada. A Syrian refugee is welcome wherever there is a group of five Canadians who are willing to be their sponsor, and those immigrants are getting integrated and absorbed more successfully into society. The number of young, college-seeking students from other countries who want to pursue higher education is growing quickly in Canada while it is declining here. And the economic divide is not huge and expanding as it is here.
We know there are things we must do to “make America great again.” We must provide universal access to basic and preventive health care. We can’t afford to keep doing the crazy things we are doing now. We must find a way to parent, nurture and educate every child. We must start eliminating the huge disparity between the super wealthy and the poor. How we manage to talk together and begin to address these roadblocks to any success is urgent if we have any hope of rebuilding a great society.
Linda Johnson is a Leavenworth Times columnist.