1. Global Climate Change. Not a peep! As the US suffered through the hottest July in the record books, drought leaves actor-maniacs like Tom Selleck siphoning water from fire hydrants so he can keep his lawns shiny green… not a peep from our would-be Commanders-in-Chief, nor the media panel there to, er, “grill” them!
2. The Mal-distribution of Wealth. Here’s a premise the panel might have explored: In a world where children are starving, migrants are drowning in the thousands while attempting to cross the Mediterranean, or paying “coyotes” to jackknife them across the US southern desert-border—because there’s not enough work, not enough resources in their climate and war-ravaged lands… is it not rather obscene that 85 world citizens have as much collective wealth as 7.2 billion people? Is it not disgusting to have at least 1500 billionaires in the United States? (Not to mention the mega-millionaires!) We’re not talking “Communism” here; we’re talking fairness and balance. Note to the Bible-thumpers–even the Old Testament got this one right: “A false balance is abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” (Proverbs; 11.22)
3. Pollution. Especially timely now in the wake of the Environmental Protection Agency “accidentally” (i.e., carelessly, foolishly, idiotically) spilling a million gallons of golden, poisonous “ooze” into rivers and tributaries in Colorado and New Mexico! Cell phone towers going up all over the land and microwaves all over our kitchens… and who’s looking out for “smart”-phoning, microwaved kids? The recent recurrence of Legionnaire’s Disease in NY City might remind us just how vulnerable we are! It seems the germs spew out of gigantic air-conditioning units on the roofs of big buildings; the germs get warmed up and mist-ified and are then sown with little droplets of water right into the mouths, nostrils and lungs of pedestrians several stories below! Then there’s fracking! You can ignite the water coming out of your tap—especially if you’re in one of those recently earthquake-prone states like formerly earthquake-free Oklahoma! Then there’s the beaches of the one-time “California-dreaming golden state” where all kinds of dead blobs are washing up on shore (thanks to Fukushima?). As for the air… pardon me while I use my inhaler!
4. The Militarization of the American Police. Not a question, not an opinion expressed about recent riots in Baltimore or Ferguson, Missouri or the very questionable deaths of Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Samuel DuBose and innumerable others–black, white, brown, yellow–dying because a rookie or experienced cop had an itchy trigger finger! Who trains our police? How are they trained? Where? Are they trained to shoot first, ask questions later? Could not one person on the intrepid media panel inquire if Black Lives Matter? Why is surplus military equipment being donated to police departments, large and small, all across these United States?
5. NAFTA. The North American Free Trade Agreement was touted as a good deal for the US, Canada and Mexico. It has, indeed, helped to line the pockets of the richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, and other mega-rich, but if it was such a great deal for other North American states why are the impoverished citizens of Mexico and Central America pouring over our porous border? Why do we now have the largest number of our citizens out of the labor-force, unable to earn enough money to pay off student debts or medical expenses, or start a family, or keep a family together? If we want to help the poor in other countries—great! But, why aren’t we helping them in their own countries, instead of abetting corruption “over there,” and then bringing the victims of such corruption into our country to compete with our labor force, to drive down wages, weaken labor unions, etc.?
6. Occupy Wall Street. It was all the rage a couple of years ago! Was it all media-hype, to divert us from our real problems? Was the “Occupy Movement” infiltrated, leaders’ heads figuratively—we hope not literally!—chopped off? What about the issues raised then? Punishing the “too-big-to-fail” bankers who precipitated the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression? How about repealing Glass-Steagall—to keep things kosher! You know—meat here, dairy there; commercial banks here, savings and loans there!
7. Mental Illness. According to a report in Newsweek (February 28, 2014): “Every year, about 42.5 million American adults… suffer from some mental illness, enduring conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.” That’s about 1 in 5 American adults. (Imagine if one finger on each of your hands was broken!) How did we get so nutty? Can a people with that level of neuroses or psychoses be said to be “free”? Is it any wonder that we are now taking our lives into our hands when we enter a movie theater? And how are these people with mental illnesses treated, Doctor? Why, with pharmaceuticals, of course! But, aren’t there dangerous side-effects? Well, then, sue the company! But, Big Pharma has gargantuan resources and I’m slinging hamburgers at Burger King!… Yeah, well, life is rough!
8. Contextualization. Not one candidate was asked to contextualize US problems in terms of a bigger context: How has the US exacerbated or ameliorated conditions that threaten global survival during your lifetime? We’re aiming for the bigger perspective here, a Carl Sagan, Earth as a little, pretty, blue marble kind of perspective here. Where are we going? 70 years ago, we dropped atomic bombs on a defeated Japan, basically with the Wilsonian rationale “to make the world safe for democracy.” What lessons have we learned since then?
9. The Degradation of Culture. In terms of our theatrical world, we’ve zigzagged from Clifford Odets, Lilian Hellman, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, et. al. to revivals of “The Lion King.” Populist TV fare has taken us from “Playhouse 90,” “The Waltons” and “The Twilight Zone” to “Real Housewives of New Jersey” (or OC, or Sheboygan!), or “Naked and Afraid,” etc. Our cartoons “for kids” have degenerated from the innocent buffoonery of “Yogi Bear” and the “Flintstones” to the crudities of “Family Guy” and the little buggers of “South Park”. (I know, I know. Those are “cartoon shows for adults”! but the kids are watching them… and who’s watching the kids?) Adults used to read books by authors like Hemingway, Faulkner, Norman Mailer, Carson McCullers, Katherine Ann Porter, Harper Lee, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, et.al. There used to be book clubs which met once a month or so and your “average American” was happy to talk about some new book. What is our culture about now, besides over-consumption of gewgaws, getting ahead of the other guy, doing it to him (or her) before it’s done to you!
10. Overpopulation. Some 70 years ago, there were 2.4 billion people in the world and about 140 million Americans. Today, there are 7.2 billion people in the world and about 315 million legal Americans. In view of all of the above… enough said!