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by ZweiBieren God Blessed America pens in a mug

Most especially you hear it as the President ends a speech: "God Bless America." I would much rather he turned that from a demand to a praise. For truly, God has Blessed America. We should not be asking for more but praying fervently that we may act in gratitude and learn to share those gifts throughout the world and through our coming generations. Our record so far is dismal, even abysmal.

Our blessings began with a warning that God is not unrelentingly benificent. The first Europeans brought invisible warriors, smallpox and the like, which depleted the existing populations, leaving the land available for the interlopers, immigrants and their progeny. This is surely not due to the fact that the natives did not pray to the God that Europeans usurped from the Israelites. The natives prayed in their own way and had other names for God. It is impossible that God really cares about what name we call Him or Her. (Or even whether we capitalize pronouns for It.)

A greatly diminished and weakened indigenous population proved no match for the immigrants , leaving vast realms of resources available to new-comers: fertile land, plentious water, clement weather, plants and animals both non-poisonous and edible, rich seams of coal, floods of oil, iron ore, copper ore, and on and on. It needed only ambitious, hard-working individuals to exploit it. And the need for immigrants to undertake an arduous, expensive voyage to get here assured that the majority of new-comers had exaclly those traits. How can we say we were anything less than truly blessed. The earliest of settler's brought with them the values of democracy and religious freedom. These freedoms made it possiblr to derive benefit from all those with good ideas, without regard to "connections" or religious beliefs. This was a blessing in allowing us to derive maximum value from all. Basic freedoms were enhanced with universal education. Most people learned to readd and write. This skill was sufficiently universal that Ben Franklin could earn a decent income from producing a newspaper and almanacs.

My grandfather arrived in this country through Ellis Island a century ago. And what a century it has been. Maxwell's equations led to radio. Eintstein's photons led to transistor radios, computers, and so much more. We invented a bomb capable of eradicatinig life on the planet and used a smaller version to eradicate life in two cities. My grandfather worked for Otis, whose elevator innovations made possible the high-rise builds that allowed the production concentration of idea workers.

Television! A miracle any way you look at it. The first video presentation of Romeo and Juliet reached more viewer than the combined attendance at theaters in the entire four centuries since Shakespeare penned it. It brought battle scenes from Viet Nam to such a wide audience that the war was ended abruptly. The prospects for widespread access to education were wonderful. 200 viewers per performance; 2 pref/day; 365 days/yr; 450 yrs = 65,700,000 viewers first shakespeare on tv: ? 25,000,000 viewers

And what have we done with television. Reality shows. Judges ruling between litigants suing to claim the title of dumbest. Talking heads. Children's cartoons where objects defy with impunity the laws of conservation of matter and energy. Game shows. Escapist stuff; which is fortunate for there is much in our reality that it is nice to escape from.

(For another time: television and the cost of running a political campaign.)

(For another: religion and power.)

We have squandered the blessings of resources. Oil that took twenty-five million years to create has been exhausted at a rate of roughly a million years of creation for one year of use. At this rate, we can destroy humanity and the oil supply will be repleniished just about the time a second sentient species evolves. Meanwhile, burning the oil has released hydrocarbons into the atmosphere sufficient to fuel a major surge in the warming of the planet.

(For another time: oil, depletion alowance, wealth, political power.)

In response to environmental problems, some claim that Earth itself is the goddess Gaia who will work to heal the earth and provide for us. To me this seems possible. The problem is that Gaia has identified one-particular carbon-based lifeform that is hgihly inimical to the future of the planet. So Gaia has decided to eliminate this species; too bad it is us.

In the thirties, Oklahoma underwent a severe drought and a dust that sent her citizens trekkingto california. Then an ancient aquifer was discovered beneath the central portion of the country. Water tha had lain in place for hundreds of thousands of years. Drillinig into this aquifer enabled a newly green Oklahoma. Crops bloomed the economy boomed and people once again filled the state. Now, after just a few decades, the aquifer has been deleted. Once again, Oklahoma has turned brown.

Erosion through poor field management practices has flushed dirt into the rivers. First clogging those streams into overflowing othe fields, then polluting downstream areas with the strong chemicals spread on the newly unfertile fields to repair the depredation of past poor practices.

The earliest immigrants fled repression and accordingly brought strong feelings for freedom of thought and religion. To survive, knowledge was crucial and universal education embraced. The resulting educational values served most people well for two centuries. Then in 1955 the Supreme Court decreed that universal education was not reaching everyone and it should. The response was not to improve the educational system, but to dismantle it. Education has not thrived. Now money is a gating factor. The result is those with money get educated and those without are not, irrespective of their abilities. Slowly the worker pool is being starved of innovation; after all, innovation always threatens to dismantle the status quo.

The swamps and forests have been plowed for farms and paved for housing tracts. Many pre-existing species are vanishing. Fortunately, such environmental stress fosters the creation of new species. Not necessarily, however, species as amenable to cohabitation with humans as the species replaced. After all, humans are the enemy and new species must devise features to repel the foe.

In medicine, we have developed antibiotics in great variety. Curiously, the earliest penicilin derived from a mouldy cantaloupe in Peoria donated anonymously. Some speculate that the donor was an angel sent as a courier from God. Perhaps so. And what have we done? We use antibiotics too much. Our soaps all contain trichlorsan to kill bugs. Our meats come from animals dosed daily with antibiotics in their feed. People demand that their doctors give them antibiotics for colds, where they are useless.

Our massive overuse of antibiotics has engendered the emergence of drug-resistant microbial species. For some infections there may be only one remaining effective drug. For some, there are no effective drugs and those microbes will kill people egalitarianly, without regard to religion, race, or socio-economic status.

It is surely true that God blessed America. It is impudent and ungrateful to beg for more blessings. The time has come to pray thanksgiving. To strive to preserve what we have been given. And to seek the wisdom and courage to pass our blessings on to others and our posterity.

 
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