The American eclipse

Published 11:32 am Friday, May 26, 2017

On Aug. 21, 2017, we will have the opportunity to witness the rare event of a total eclipse of the sun. This event comes while the nation is experiencing a total eclipse of its values and aspirations, a series of events of far more immediate and consequential actions for our daily lives.

America has always been the aspirational nation. From those seeking religious freedom, who came to a wild, unsettled land and risked their very lives to discover and survive and later to thrive, to the builders and the creators who made innovation America’s engine for growth, we always sought the better path.

We were aspirational in the creation of our constitution, a document promising a new way for humans to engage each other by liberating all to create and express themselves.

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And in the 20th century, when America rose to pre-eminence, we built the first national highway system, to connect us all to each other. We ended the last world war by helping rebuild those we defeated, and by creating the GI bill that contributed to the truest form of what became the “middle class.”

We were aspirational when we created Social Security to give our senior citizens dignity and security, and Medicare to ensure their access to healthcare.

We remained aspirational when we created Medicare Part D, prescription drug insurance, and we were aspirational when we created the Affordable Care Act, designed to insure healthcare for millions more Americans, and with more and better coverages. We were even aspirational in our hopes of protecting the planet from the ravages of humanity ignoring the very environment that gives us life.

We were, for many years of our history, the nation that stood in defiance of despots and dictators, and governments that denied freedom to their people. We were the place on earth where so many hoped one day to come and visit, stay and live, and prosper and be free.

And we were the original home of what became known as the American Dream, the promise of opportunity to rise and succeed more likely that any place else on the planet.

But those aspirations today seem quaint and dated and beyond our reach, because America is in an eclipse of decency.

At a time when the nation founded upon immigrants is in a world with more refugees than ever in history, our borders are closed and our walls are rising.

When our foundation of religious freedom was once a core value, today we seek to deny access to the world’s largest religion and all who practice it.

While our congress looks away, today our law enforcement is collecting and expelling immigrants who have committed no crime, other than seeking a better life, casting out mothers from their children, and young men and women who have lived in America most of their lives. We know it is wrong, but we look away.

Our nation, founded upon freedom of the press and free speech is now plagued with fake news and a president who lies to the American people so often he has created an entire industry of fact checkers. The press is threatened openly by the president for not reporting as he wishes, and Congress, again, remains silent.

The very foundation of America, the vote, stands challenged by voting restrictions designed to reduce, not increase, voting participation, and by challenges to voters of color and income disparity.

And while health care today seeks congressional change, is it aspirational to deny healthcare to as many as 23 million Americans? Is it aspirational to ignore the urgent need to address climate change? Is it aspirational to harm the hungry in America, or to seek to indebt our students even more?

We are a people who have always raised our heads to the sun, prospering in the light, shining in the hope of a greater tomorrow. But we are a people facing a total eclipse of the sun.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.