The United States of America is, without question in my mind, the greatest nation in the earth’s history. It has achieved more than any other country, and its citizens are, for the most part, free and able to prosper.
But the U.S. is a long way from flawless. Its biggest historical stain is slavery. We condoned and even encouraged the owning of one human being by another until the civil war. And we live today with racial and religious prejudice which deprives Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, and Asians of the lives guaranteed to other Americans. We are improving, but we have a long way to go.
Meanwhile, three national flaws that concern me personally are getting little attention from the public these days. They are lack of firearm control, failure to tackle global warming, and retention of the electoral college.
It’s well established that the number of deaths due to guns is closely connected with the number of guns in the society. We have an estimated 120.5 guns for every 100 people in the U.S. That’s the highest ratio in the world. Over 19,000 people died in gun violence in the U.S. in 2020, almost 25 percent more than in 2019. And we do nothing to reduce the plethora of weapons that is killing our people.
According to the Global Climate Change Network, “Earth’s global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record, according to an analysis by NASA.” And the U.S. is a primary contributor to global warming. President Trump refused to believe that the earth was heating up and did nothing during his four-year administration to reduce action contributing to it. And the earth goes on heating up.
The U.S. electoral college was created by the nation’s founders to allow the southern slave-owning states greater power in electing the president. The enslaved population in those states was not included in the count of citizens. As a result, those states’ population was far lower than that of the northern free states. Election of the president by the electoral college restored the equality of power to southern slave owners.
The net effect today of the electoral college is to unfairly favor Republican presidential candidates over Democratic one. Example: in 2016, Clinton beat Trump by almost 3 million votes but lost the election because Trump got more electoral college votes.
These three flaws in our national culture are all curable. I am more optimistic than I have been in many years that Biden will move quickly to heal these fissures.