"In this sticky web that we're all in, behaving decently is no small task." -- Novelist Stacey D'Erasmo

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Three Silent Issues

     To listen to the presidential candidates, both Republican and Democratic, you'd think our country's most pressing problems involve personal emails, or building a wall, or who gets bragging rights for being the most progressive or the biggest mouth. And while, of course, immigration reform is important and so are economic growth and racial equality, no wall is going to affect your life directly, and neither is an increase in the tax rate for people making over $200,000 per year.

     I'm suggesting that the following are the three biggest issues that directly affect our lives as average middle-class Americans -- all issues on which the candidates are completely silent. How can you disagree?

     3)  Nuclear weapons. After the Cold War both America and Russia dismantled a large portion of their nuclear arsenals. That should make us feel better, right? But both the U. S. and Russia still have about 7,000 nuclear weapons. France, China, the U.K., Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea also have nuclear weapons.

     North Korea recently tested its fourth nuclear weapon, claimed to be an H-bomb, which is a thousand times more powerful than an A-bomb. North Korea already has the capability to threaten South Korea, Japan, China and other nearby countries, and it is currently trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile to reach the mainland United States. So, Mr. or Mrs. presidential candidate, what are you going to do about North Korea?

     Meanwhile, both Russia and the U. S. are testing smaller, more sophisticated nuclear weapons that could be delivered by precision-guided missiles. Russia's working on a nuclear-tipped torpedo. And evidence suggests that ISIS and other terrorist groups are attempting to get their hands on a nuclear device. For all these reasons, according to The Week magazine, the so-called Doomsday Clock, the symbolic countdown to Armageddon, last year was advanced from 11:55 p.m. to 11:57 p.m. -- or three minutes to total worldwide destruction.

     2)  Air pollution. According to a  new study by a group of international scientists, pollution from power plants, heavy industry, household sources such as stoves, furnaces and fireplaces, and vehicle exhaust contribute to heart disease, lung cancer, bronchitis and other serious diseases.

     Worldwide, pollution kills more than 5 million people a year, most of them in India and China, but a significant number in Europe and America as well. The estimate is that air pollution (forget water pollution from lead pipes like those in Flint, Mich., or any other sources) kills "almost 80,000 Americans every year." And that doesn't even count climate change and the potential threats to weather, agriculture and our entire way of life brought to us by global warming.

     Believe me, if Spanish-language immigrants, or Muslim terrorists or lone-wolf gunmen were killing 80,000 Americans every year, there would be an uproar. We'd be building a wall around everything!

     3) Automobile accidents. Traffic fatalities went down for many years, due mostly to seat belts and air bags, so why should we worry about this? Because every day when you climb into your car you go out on the highway to face other drivers who speed, tailgate, change lanes without signaling, pass on the right, roll through stop signs, weave in and out of traffic, text and talk on the phone, and eat and put on makeup while they are driving.

     Car accidents are the biggest and most immediate threat to life and limb for average Americans. There were still over 32,000 fatalities on the road in 2014, and now, last year, the downtrend has been reversed. According to the National Safety Council some 38,000 Americans were killed, and another 4.4 million injured, on U. S. roads in 2015. It was the largest one year percentage increase in half a century.

     They say risks that are familiar to us, like dying in a car accident, are less scary than unfamiliar risks, such as dying in a terrorist shooting. As tragic as those shootings are, in the past decade fewer than 10 Americans per year have been killed by terrorists, compared to some 35,000 a year in car accidents.

     In over ten years of war about 2,500 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan. In Iraq there were about 4,500 Americans killed. I don't mean to minimize the tragic deaths in Afghanistan or Iraq. I mean to make us all more aware of the tragic deaths on the Americans roads, as well as the problems of pollution and nuclear weapons. And I wonder, is there anything the politicians -- or anyone else for that matter -- can do about it all?


DJan said...

I just learned of the death of a fellow blogger from Canada who was killed, along with her husband, in a car accident. I worry about that more than the other two, but that's only because air pollution is not much of an issue where I live, and nuclear weapons, what can I do? But I don't get behind the wheel of a car with so much as a drop of alcohol. I wish others would do the same. :-(

Anonymous said...

Your logic makes no sense. You don't have to be in a car to be killed by it. Just cross a street. Any street. And chances are good you'll be run over by a car. Yeah? So? And your point is? I can also get hit in the head from falling debris. What does that mean? I should never leave my house ever again? You can also be killed inside your home. Should I not be living in a home?

You said: "In over ten years of war about 2,500 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan. In Iraq there were about 4,500 Americans killed". What about the 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11/01 who all they were doing was just showing up for work that day? Should we not go to work anymore? Or the hundreds of Christians who are getting their heads chopped off simply because they don't believe in Allah, but Jesus instead. Or the many millions who are being chased out of their homes due to ISIS and have now become worldwide migrants, dying along the way? Think ISIS can't come knocking on our American doors? Now do you see how ridiculous, when put into perspective clean air is??? Duh? 80,000 Americans and innocent migrants ARE being killed each and every year and we are doing nothing about it. Duh?
The deal that Obama (and Hillary) made with Iran almost guarantees a nuclear bomb inside the hands of terrorists. What are you, the voter, going to do about it? I know you're voting Democrat, so the point is moot. You're aiming the bomb at yourself!
When you get into a car you know what your chances of survival will be. But when you leave your house and show up for work, you're expecting to work.....not die at the hands of some mad terrorist whim. That's the difference.
As far as pollution is concerned, until India and China clean up their acts, nothing America does will clean up the polluted air waves. You're all wasting your time and resources (tax money). You should be concentrating your efforts towards them. NOT us.

stephen Hayes said...

Politics have degenerated into yelling matches instead of discussions about the important issues you've mentioned.

Anonymous said...

I like Trump, but hubby hasn't decided yet. Let's see who wins.
It really doesn't matter, because we have a system of checks and balances: the legislature, the courts, and the executive branch.

Barb said...

I believe (and does my son) that the greatest issue affecting the long term future is that of the health of the planet. Unfortunately, as I just blogged about, even though he is a conservative at heart, he will probably not vote his party because they seem to be in complete denial on that issue, never mind other issues.

And yes, as the anonymous blog post above shows with all the caps, politics is no longer about intelligent discussion, but rather who can yell the loudest, and insult the most.

Fortunately I do have other choices than Trump, thank God!

Olga said...

Seems, after all these many years, I have to go look up the definition of logic.

Snowbrush said...

I thought your logic made perfect sense, and how would electing Donald Trump fix anything anyway?

Tom said...

It's true, life is a gamble. But we can't just throw up our hands and say we can't do anything because we don't know what will happen. You focus on what's important and do what you can. As for those who are skeptical about global warning, I'll quote capitalist Warren Buffett who says even "if there is only a 1% chance the planet is heading toward a truly major disaster and delay means passing a point of no return, inaction now is foolhardy. Call this Noah’s Law: If an ark may be essential for survival, begin building it today, no matter how cloudless the skies appear.”

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! I agree that this election so far has turned in to a lot of NOISE that is mainly about crazy issues and things that on the big scale won't effect us much. But like you said, the pollution (on the heals of the climate crisis) are HUGE and will touch us all eventually. And while I agree that most of the time the final election of who becomes president won't really change our lives--I think when you have such a crazy candidate like Trump who knows what could happen? Seriously. He talks about building walls, disrespecting and insulting millions of people based upon their religion, and blowing up and shooting people who don't do what he thinks they should. I think we must consider that if he become president he could cause events that would seriously destroy the very fabric of our country. Of course my husband happens to think that Cruz and Rubio are even scarier for other reasons!!!! ~Kathy

Jono said...

A lot of the 2016 election race is just show biz at this point. It won't get serious until we have actual nominees.

Anonymous said...

For starters, I would say the country needs to do a total rethink on the War on Drugs, which you failed mention. Drug use continues unabated, heroin deaths are spreading throughout the suburbs, jails are overflowing because of direct and indirect drug prosecutions: all of which are costing the country billions and billions of dollars per year. And we as a nation continue nude to pursue the same failed policies of the past. We are not losing the battle on drugs: we have lost.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Thank you, Tom, for one of the most coherent election era discussions yet! You're so right: there is too much shouted about matters unlikely to affect us directly while too many are in denial about our greatest, most direct t threats that you have presented so well.

Wisewebwoman said...

You forgot universal health care. And Drumf (his real name) is one scary mammal.


Janette said...

Well said.
The number one issue in my mind is energy.
It is energy that runs our cars and pollutes our earth.
We need it.
How do we get it?

If we could figure out another way, we could leave the Middle East alone.
The Middle East matters because they are the real problem with nuclear warheads.
An insane leader with a rusty nuclear weapon is much like an insane man with a rusty gun. They can kill lots of people they "think" are against them.
Korea? That would be China's issue.

If we could figure out energy, we could slow the pollution of our skies.
Obviously, this means something other then fossil fuels.
You mentioned the small nukes- in terms of bombs. There is also huge research on small nukes and powering cities. Safely. Don't assume all military research is evil. Did you know that all military bases will be 50-70% solar powered in five years?

If we could figure out energy, we could rid ourselves of heavy cars and trucks.
Which would cut down the kill rate of autos.

No matter what people think- a government is in place for commerce.
We go to wars over goods and services.
We bring in money to hire people (teachers, police...)
Protection of people doing commerce in other places. Yes, travels are a part of commerce.
Get energy under control and we can move forward.
Now I will sit back and let Cindi call me a moron again. :)