My dearly loved grandmother witnessed great changes in her lifetime.
Before she left Russia in the late 1800s, she saw the big city, Ekaterinburg, near the farm she grew up on, have electric lights.
She saw the introduction of the automobile, refrigerators. washing machines and dryers, gas and electric stoves, indoor plumbing, air travel, TV, penicillin and the telephone, to name some of the great inventions of the world.
She marveled at, enjoyed and appreciated all these changes. When the quality of life continued to get better and better for a good portion of our country, she could never understand why the people who enjoyed and accepted this great new and changing life, could not feel that other human beings who were different from them should also have access to the ongoing improving quality of life.
Religious, racial and gender differences created unreasonable and strong prejudices that led to deep and unbelievably cruel and unspeakable hatreds and actions by groups in power over other groups who just wanted to enjoy these new and wonderful additions to the good life.
And, while the world kept spewing out new and improved change that made life dream-like, like Utopia — at least for those in charge — these folks treated those different from them as inferior and not worthy of sharing this ever-growing cornucopia of better living or, in some cases, worthy of life at all.
Wars and other atrocities over religion, race, ethnicity, political or even regional differences kept the flames of hatred continuously burning around the world and in the U.S.
My grandmother’s philosophy was, the world is a wonderful place, but the people ruin it.
Today, in the 21s t century, little has changed. While we can walk on the moon, send a robot to Mars and even see the hole in the ozone layer, we are unable to shed the same inherited or learned prejudices that have plagued the world since biblical times.
Many less developed countries have for centuries retained their way of life that keeps those hatreds and prejudices alive. While we often point to the long-standing hatreds existing in certain countries, especially in the Middle East, we to look at ourselves in the U.S. where laws we’ve passed to insure equality and to do away with prejudice unfortunately have not changed our prejudicial behavior.
We have only in some cases changed who we hate or how we hate. The most unfortunate part is that our leadership has not only become more divided on these issues and has even developed stronger prejudices against each other. These divisions have increased in the absence of leadership from the national to local levels; leadership that can bring people together to solve problems rather than encourage them.
Those we have entrusted to lead us have developed their own divisions, and they only look for ways to defeat the individuals on the other side. These non-leaders have lost the ability to simply come together for the sole purpose of solving problems but choose rather to prove the other side wrong
Real leaders don’t lead their followers into the abyss. Real leaders are problem solvers, not problem creators. Real leaders bring people together, not divide them. Real leaders don’t continue to argue over whose way is better to put out the fire while the house is burning. Real leaders come together to save the house.
For example, how is it that New Zealand’s and other countries’ leaders can, in only days or weeks, put aside their differences and ban certain weapons and tighten their gun laws after only one mass shooting, and our non-leadership cannot, after numerous mass shootings, make progress in finding a way to deal with the problem?
How is it that the Virginia General Assembly cannot pass a law to prevent people from holding their cell phones while driving when there is ample evidence that it would reduce accidents and deaths.
The list is so long where we are failing to deal with critical issues that it would be impossible to list them here.
About 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln warned that, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." It took four years and thousands of dead and wounded on both sides to show why this is so.
Today, we are a house divided and in search of a qualified leader who can close the divide. It is up to us to find that leader. If each of us doesn’t make the effort to find that leader, the words of another sage, Pogo, will ring true, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Harvey Gold is a contributing writer at InsideNova. Reach him at StaffordNews@insidenova.com.