Every February I check my garden for the first daffodil sprouts. They are signs of hope and renewal. Once I see them, I know spring is on the way, even if it snows a few days later. This year, sprouts will again show up on schedule, but nonetheless, I am a bit gloomy. It isn’t only the many recent gloomy days of rain, but the news. Internationally, nationally, and locally things are not going well. There is reason to fear that we’re in for a difficult year.
Internationally, Putin’s Blitzkrieg, while less blitzy than Hitler’s is about to enter its second year. Ukraine has inspired the West with its tenacity and courage, but people are still dying, and the war is escalating. A year ago, sending Patriot missile systems and M1 tanks was rejected out of fear it could prompt the certifiably insane Putin to use nuclear weapons. Today, those weapons are on their way to the Ukraine battlefield. Will China decide to match the West and offer a few weapon systems of its own? Will Putin call the West’s bluff and use a tactical nuclear weapon?
Speaking of China, US General Mike Minihan wrote a memo warning the U.S. to prepare for war with China in two years. He is concerned that the U.S. could lose. And, if the war begins with a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, will the U.S. immediately respond, or, more likely, wait until China attacks the U.S. directly by sinking a U.S. aircraft carrier, or shooting down a few planes?
Let us also not forget about climate change. Although Congress approved massive funding to combat climate change last year, China is not cooperating on international efforts. Each year we get closer to the “point of no return,” but many still do not take climate change seriously. If you know how to solve this problem—getting people to take the existential threat seriously—please leave the answer in the comments section of this article.
Although I could list several other international threats, let’s close on the pandemic. Simply put, it is not over.
Domestic worries are every bit as troubling. Mass shootings have become so common that we only read about the “big” ones. To make the national news, you need to shoot at least eight people. Gun sales continue to rise. The prospects for effective gun control legislation (now referred to as gun safety legislation in the hopes that a rebranding might increase the slim chances for enactment) are dismal.
Police also just murdered another Black man. After watching the gruesome videotape, I wonder if police watch the news or whether something else leads to suspects being kicked while on the ground or officers slugging a suspect while a colleague holds the suspect’s hands behind his back.
I also am worried about Ron DeSantis. Why is a governor reviewing high school advanced placement courses? The answer is to seek political gain by pandering to the racist right wing. Regardless of your thoughts on the merits of African American studies, shouldn’t professional educators and school boards make these decisions? Bigotry is alive and well in the U.S. Just look around.
And let us not forget that many economists still predict a recession. The debate now is not whether we will suffer a serious economic downturn, but about whether it will be mild or severe. How high will unemployment be by the end of the year? Will we need a massive “Recession Recovery Act” by Thanksgiving? I hope not, but I fear I’m wrong. And don’t forget that the U.S. may default on its debts by June if the federal debt ceiling is not raised.
Let us also talk about the Republican party. I have long hoped for its implosion because Trump broke it beyond repair. That was wishful thinking because the GOP, led by a spineless Speaker who sold his soul to a group of 14 devils, now controls the House of Representatives. A dysfunctional Congress, stymied by political division, may not be able to respond to a national economic crisis. That is scary.
Trump, while finally facing the probability of indictment (but, when?) is still kicking. Pundits tell us he will never be elected president in 2024 but still could win the Republican nomination. Will Andy “Handgun” Harris remain loyal to Trump, regardless of how much more insane Trump becomes? Of course, he will.
Former House Speaker “Tip” O’Neill and many others have said “all politics are local.” One might say “all worries are local.” In the case of the Eastern Shore, we need to worry about undisciplined development. With good reason our area is becoming increasingly popular. Do we want a 30 percent or greater population increase? Are our schools, medical facilities, roads, police, sewers, and everything else ready for this type of growth? No. My fear, most recently highlighted over the confused mess of the Lakeside development debate in Talbot County, is that developers are puppeteers who will decide the future of the Eastern Shore. I worry that we are suffering a serious deficit in political leadership that will change our way of life. Talbot County Council, if you read this, please prove me wrong.
Forgive me for seeing the glass as half empty. It is easier to write about daffodils blooming and the many positive things here and elsewhere that we still enjoy. I mention my worries in the hopes that something can be done about them. Perhaps that is not naïve.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.