What I Believe About America in 2012

Listen: America is changing.

It’s not just that Obama is a hit with young voters. It’s that young voters are increasingly multiracial and metropolitan, and they reward the candidates and policies that represent their views: inclusive, aspirational and non-limiting.

The conservative leaders in America seem either unwilling to grasp the complexity of our country’s changing demographics, or else they’re convinced that this is somehow an aberration, and that traditional politics of exclusion, protectionism and limitation will someday seem like the more appealing option.

This is not going to happen.

40% of Generation Y is multiethnic. The vast majority of them intend to live in cities, where they’ll be exposed to people, cultures, stories and opportunities drawn from a diaspora of backgrounds and intentions. In short, they are going to be the most tolerant generation in history, simply because they will be the least easily-segmented population in history.

And they’re not alone. Our global economy is also shifting.

In the next 50 years, North America and Europe will be surpassed by Asia and Africa in terms of boom economies. China is aggressively pursuing resources and relationships throughout Africa and the Middle East, while the United States races to catch up in a life-sized game of financial Risk. Successfully capitalizing upon these emerging markets will require a cosmopolitanism previously unfathomed by the global populace — and an entirely new approach to education.

Reluctantly, America is finally coming to grips with the fact that we as a nation are living in a post-industrial economy, yet our education system is broken in so many places that we are profoundly unable to teach our children the skills that will prepare them to be successful in a world where, soon enough, “just” being bilingual will be seen as an international recruiting handicap.

And yet, when faced with the enormity of America’s future challenges, we somehow managed to reduce the level of discourse in our recent 2012 elections to debates over whether or not women have the right to control their own bodies, or if people who are physically attracted to others of the same sex deserve the same civil rights as people who are attracted to their gender opposites.

Really?

China has the largest standing army in the world, and an economy that’s showing signs of slowing — thus indicating that they might need to fire up their war machine in order to fuel the capitalist binge we thrust upon them — and we’re still worried about how our fellow citizens are managing their own genitals?

Well, no. Actually, we aren’t.

The people who are worried about that topic — and many others that truly aren’t helping America evolve at the rate we need to evolve in order to remain globally relevant — are an increasingly small but desperately vocal conservative minority, who cling to antiquated social norms as totems that they pray will ward off America’s inevitable change because they fear how that change might force them to adapt their own lives, thoughts and worldviews.

But to the young cosmopolitan voters, the Tea Party comes across the American version of the Taliban: angrily resistant to change, defiantly insistent upon ancient dogma, extreme in their economic views and reductive in their social policy. Theirs is not a vision of a unified future, but a vision of an America that never was, which they somehow hope to recreate atop a population that is ethnographically incapable of supporting it.

Intransigence is not a winning strategy.

I’m not saying that all change is good, or that all tradition is bad. Failing to appreciate where we’ve been means we wouldn’t appreciate where we could go next. But I am saying the new America means coexisting, compromising, and conflating our various worldviews into a joint vision that works.

We are not post-racial. What we are is co-racial.

We are not godless. What we are is capable of rectifying spirituality and science within a practical ideology.

We do not want to commit fiscal suicide, or redistribute America’s wealth by way of unearned handouts. What we want is to provide reasonable opportunities for success to everyone who’s willing to work for it, without requiring some people to jump through more artificial hoops than others based solely upon criteria they cannot control.

We do not want to be the nation that ceased to be relevant in the 21st Century. What we want is to be worthy of the vision we all keep telling ourselves we were founded upon.

The good news is, getting there is inevitable.

The only question is how long is it going to take?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=873285079 Ara Bedrossian

    Justin, you don’t mention how these social issues ofabortion and gay marriage are being used by liberal voters in deciding who tovote for. Do you think their focus on these issues is missing the global picture which you accurately describe?

    The intent of conservatism is to encourage innovation,surprising as it may seem to most people, by discouraging monopolies. But Republicans aren’t conservative anymore, and free market ideas have been left to the libertarians. And the Republican evolution to trickle-down economics has now been adopted by the Democrats, at least, this Democratic president. And it stymies innovation by keeping the large corps in place (GM, Wall St, any company with enough money to bring a powerful lobby to Capitol Hill). Unfortunately, I see corporatism being practiced by both parties, and their touted ideologies placed in their back pockets after they get re-elected. Not to mention the civil liberties that are being violated with govt surveillance and the NDAA’s giving the president our right to trial.

    But the globalization of the market is the best thing that can happen to everyone. In the US, we start to face the state of our education system and China gets to see a growing middle class start demanding some human
    rights. And in the Middle East, people see that they don’t need to live under a dictator, and they begin the dirty work of cleaning house. Innovators can go wherever they want now, virtually, and soon, physically, as these countries settle into more stable and free societies.  Technology will mitigate the corporate gatekeeper’s power over communication and manufacturing, and their moneyed hold on the government. The corporations still have the power of their brand, but that can be countered more easily now with technology. It is a great time of change…
    Sorry for writing a book.

  • http://justinkownacki.com/ Justin Kownacki

    Ara — you make excellent points. I don’t agree with everything Obama’s done, and I don’t disagree with everything Romney proposed. But given that we have a 2-party system (for now, and probably for awhile longer), I still end up voting for the candidate whose overall platform more closely resembles my own worldview. Would I like fewer drone strikes and less persecution of whistleblowers? Sure. And would I like to see less sway held over the entire process by corporations? Absolutely. But on other topics, I more strongly identify with Obama’s views than with Romney’s, so there I am.

    As for secular liberals using their own ideology as an election-day weapon, yes, that’s the exact same approach that conservative Christians use. What’s noteworthy this time around is just how unified that national voice became in support of inclusion and equality. And while I ascribe a huge percentage of that to young cosmopolitan voters speaking out against marginalization, I also think it bodes well for our economy’s future. Because if we can take those social issues off the table, and create workplaces where everyone feels welcome to contribute, we’ll stand a much better chance of retaining our own best and brightest future employees. If not, and if optimal employment takes a backseat to enforced dogma, those same employees are going to relocate. But while previous generations might relocate within their city or state, and the current generations relocate across the country (to the states they find more suitable), future generations are going to find it ever easier to relocate to the nation of their choice — and I think, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you’d hate to see America become a nation that people are glad to leave.

  • Pingback: America: Times, They Are A-Changin' | bantu.me