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King: More anger won’t fix our problems

POSTED: August 26, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Friday was not a good day. I was stuck in the house waiting for a repairman who was scheduled to arrive "between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m," if a missing part could be found.

My phone wasn’t working properly. To call long distance, I had to go through the operator. Not only was I charged for an assisted call, most of the time the person I called was not at his or her desk. When I did reach my party, I was referred to other people who weren’t at their desk.

I finally got the information I needed, but completing the job required another long string of phone calls and a lot of time on hold. All in all, I spent most of the day with the receiver glued to my ear because the phone company had sold me a phone with all kinds of special features but no working speakerphone and no jack for my headset.

By nightfall, almost nothing had been resolved. I was not happy. Ticked off is a better description. Fortunately, I don’t have a 9-to-5 job outside the home. How on earth does the average family cope with situations like this?

Add to these everyday inconveniences the price of gas and groceries, the home mortgage crisis, terrorism abroad and political squabbling at home, and I can understand why the man in the street is frustrated and mad at the world. The average American is hurting and can’t quite figure out why. It must be someone’s fault.

Unfortunately, a lot of what is happening today is nobody’s fault. It’s the result of conditions we ourselves have actively sought: continued growth, improved technology, enhanced communication and easy access to world resources. We got it all, but with too little time to adjust.

I sympathize with public frustration but not with the cynicism and just plain nasty behavior I see these days. Something is wrong, but whatever it is, it won’t be solved by name-calling. Nor will it be solved by any one political party, religious group or philosophy.

America needs a comprehensive energy policy, but before we decide which way to go consider this: The age of oil is less than 150 years old. The first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859.

Today, the world runs on oil. Wars have been fought, millions killed and our own security compromised, but oil remains a limited resource. If we don’t find a renewable substitute, the world economy could collapse in the next 15 to 20 years no matter how many wells we drill.

The nuclear age is less than 65 years old, but the U.S. alone has 10,000 nuclear bombs and the capacity to destroy the world several times over. Maintaining this arsenal costs Americans $17.6 billion a year.

We may stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb in the immediate future, but as long as any country has nuclear weapons, others will want them. Eventually they will get them, and the more bombs the world has, the more likely it is that they will be used.

Finally, the climate is changing. There are still people who don’t accept humanity’s role in this phenomena, but the fact is that since people began relying on fossil fuel for energy, the number of metric tons of carbon released into the atmosphere each year has gone from less than 1,000 to more than 8,000. Unless we all cooperate in reducing this figure, we are all in jeopardy, whatever the cause.

This is why cynicism and anger are self-defeating. They solve nothing. They only serve to divide us.

Beware politicians who demonize their opponents. Be wary of anything you read on a blog. Remember, bloggers can say whatever they want without revealing their name or documenting their sources. Someone once asked a politician why party loyalists lie. The reply? Because it works.

The terms "swift-boating" and "Borking" have become part of our language. Max Cleland, a man who lost three limbs in the service of our country, who served America for 20 years, first as Georgia’s secretary of state and then as a U.S. senator, was labeled "unpatriotic" during a shamefully patrician campaign.

These are tough times, scary times. Americans have been at their best in times like this, but only when they overcame their daily frustrations and pulled together. Being mad at one another won’t help.

The world is changing fast, and we don’t have time for divisiveness.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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