Sep 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

A screaming, spreading wake-up call

Drone's-eye view: Two people hold hands while walking through a mobile home park destroyed by fire Thursday in Phoenix, Ore.
Drone's-eye view: Two people hold hands while walking through a mobile home park destroyed by fire Thursday in Phoenix, Ore. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

All the biggest threats to America — most of them predicted, if not known well in advance — are unfolding before our eyes, in real-time, in unmistakable ways.

Why it matters: It's as if God or the galaxy, or whatever you believe in, are screaming for politicians and the public to pop our bubbles and pay attention — believe our eyes.

Misinformation: Every day brings new stories of other nations manipulating social media — and Americans refusing to believe scientists or experts about factual news, coronavirus prevention, global warming, vaccines and established truth.

  • Think about the number of educated people in your life who share fake stories or believe B.S.

Racial reckoning: Protests in America are the biggest since 1968, after literally decades of warnings about needed policing and economic reforms.

  • Social media has illuminated the injustices, and exacerbated the anger.

Global warming: It is nearly impossible to find a scientist who doesn't agree a warming planet has contributed to the wildfires that are destroying big slices of California, Oregon and Washington.

  • "Combined, the states have seen nearly five million acres consumed by fire — a land mass approaching the size of New Jersey," the N.Y. Times reports.
  • The record-setting blazes have been "made worse, scientists say, by the climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil. Such disasters will only become worse as the planet continues to warm."
  • Let this sink in: 18 of the warmest 19 years have occurred since 2001, according to NASA. We just experienced the warmest decade ever. And six of the biggest 20 fires in California history are burning now.

A fast-rising China: Every year, China grows bigger and more powerful, most recently seizing control of Hong Kong and trying to buy allies at U.S. expense.

  • Xi Jinping said this week that China's progress in fighting the virus, including reopening schools, has "fully demonstrated the clear superiority of Communist Party leadership and our socialist system." (N.Y. Times)
  • This is the message Beijing is spreading to other world leaders and their own people, as China seeks to displace America as the great global power.

The pandemic: Our response, infection rate and death count show in irrefutable terms that America, despite the best universities and innovators, is far from the top in controlling the coronavirus.

What's next: The good news is that America still produces and attracts many of the world’s brightest minds.

  • Somehow, these minds need to reclaim a shared definition of truth, and help adapt our biggest institutions to combat fast-growing collisions of politics + technology/science + misinformation.
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