The Oxford University-based website Our World in Data for the provision of reliable statistics recently published some disturbing figures about America. In virtually every country in the world, life expectancy is growing. The one notable exception is the United States. There, life expectancy has been shrinking consistently since 2014.
The stunned researchers, who noticed that the decline in Americans’ life expectancy is a trend rather than a “statistical error,” looked into the reasons for this oddity and found some unsettling facts. The reasons that Americans live less and less are mostly social, not medical, economic, or environmental. Americans kill each other and themselves, die of opioid-overdoses, obesity, as well as other oddities such as prevalent infant mortality and lack of access to life-saving drugs such as insulin. These latter two, in turn, also point to structural social problems more than they point to medical or environmental problems since there is no reason why the country with the most developed healthcare system in the world will not be able to practically eliminate infant mortality or provide insulin to those who really need it.
I think that this data reflects all too well the social crisis unfolding in America. America has neglected its social work—the work on human relations. We must understand that there is no country in the world like the United States. The population of the US consists of such diversity of peoples and races that make it an eclectic assembly of people who have nothing in common and often harbor ancient hostilities toward each other. This is why in America, more than anywhere else, education toward unity is vital to its survival. I would even go as far as to say that without forming a uniform American identity, which Americans lack because of their diverse backgrounds, America will not survive.
Because America has not done this in a meaningful way since the end of the civil war, the same problems that caused the outbreak of the civil war still exist today, along with numerous other problems that have piled up on top of it. Now, these problems are bringing the country to the brink of a second civil war.
America proclaims to be “the land of the free,” but what do you do if one person’s freedom is another one’s subjection? “The inclination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21), we know. If we let our inclination loose unrestrained, it will exploit, abuse, and kill indiscriminately. Liberalism is a great idea as long as you liberate people to the extent that they have been taught to preserve and respect other people’s freedom of expression and safety as much as they respect and preserve their own.
The First Amendment, which mandates freedom of expression for all, is too often implemented more along the lines of freedom to express hatred toward others, and freedom to silence views I think are wrong. This is a direct result of liberating the ego before it has been taught that liberalism and freedom of expression mean that everyone has the right to express themselves, not just me.
Just as you cannot let an untrained dog into the street, we should not let the “untrained dog” within us run free, or it is bound to bite and maim other people. First, we must learn to accept, then appreciate, and ultimately cherish the differences between us. We must come to see how our diversity may initially create misunderstandings and dislike, but when we work with it correctly, it enriches us and contributes to our wisdom as individuals, and to our strength as a society.
It may be that America has passed the point of no return and the divisions in society are beyond repair at this point. It may take another civil war for Americans to recognize that only acceptance, appreciation, and embracing diversity can form a sustainable society, but the fact that a new administration will begin this coming January, regardless of the identity of the president, requires that I make one more effort to express my view that education toward embracing diversity is the basis of America’s survival, before the leader of the free world vanishes in flames.