There is so much going on in the world to cause sustained anxiety and ongoing strife: the current wide-ranging geo-political “wars” between democracy-leaning nations and their allies and non-democratic regimes (Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not the only conflict playing out on the world stage, Israeli and Palestinian hostilities are escalating, the Middle East remains a tinder keg); devastating natural disasters, e.g., the earthquake in Turkey/Syria has amassed a death toll nearing 50,000 and counting; worldwide pandemics (covid just the latest); mass starvation in some African countries, as well as in other parts of the world; unidentified objects appearing in the skies; are just a few.

Despite all these phenomena, in my opinion, man’s inhumanity to man remains the greatest threat we face For example, we have lost sight of so much of what is really important: how to be in relationship with our fellow humans, to protect our world resources, to honor our larger body politic, to treat all people as equal, and to “study war no more.”

Am I being too hopeful, to have such high expectations of mankind?

Recently, I read about how the Southern Baptist Convention ousted Saddleback – one of its largest churches – because Saddleback allows women pastors! I know, that news item is about a particular religious organization. But the ouster, based on its interpretation on the role of women in the church, begs a larger question posed in the socalled “culture wars”: What is equality/equal treatment?

That question has cut across every sector of society. To some, the issue is how to properly use public funding. The dilemma has cut into discussions about what are appropriate public education materials (book-banning is real), how to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in public institutions (affirmative action is all but dead), and how to evaluate the platforms and positions of our elected representatives (left-leaning vs. rightleaning) without name-calling and shaming. Some call this being “woke.”

Debate rages about how much tax contributions should be used to support matters that some consider either sacred or profane, i.e., abortion rights, access to public services for the poor, immigrants and/or other non-tax contributing persons, of having open access to natural resources for use in private “business” development, etc.

We have redefined the “moral arc,” and its bend has been either raised too high (total inclusion, equal treatment of every person), or is lowered below an acceptable level (absolute or select exclusion based on gender, race, ethnicity, income level, place of birth, etc.). The way people see themselves in their overall standing before some redeemer, e.g., one’s family of origin, an artificially drawn social circle, an employment setting, a church, synagogue, mosque, or other such places that hold discourse about the meaning of life, will color their perspectives.

Are there absolute right and wrong answers anymore? Is it safe to have divided opinions?

Perspectives can shift, and change, with an open mind. .

The ballot box used to be a sacred space in which to demonstrate a change in perspective, but that has come under recent attack since the “process” has been called into doubt.

No one is exempt anymore from increasing vitriol from loud and oftentimes misguided voices proclaiming to be the only way. The increasing threat of violence against reasonable opponents, at least in the USA, has rendered many mute to speak their “truth” for fear of direct retaliation.

What have we come to?

“I want to wake up in the morning where the orange blossoms grow … In Florida,” was a song I used to enjoy singing when I was in elementary school. We sang about sunshine and birds chirping and the possibility of goodness, just being in the state.

Nowadays Florida has become a metaphor for some who feel that it is headed in a backward direction. Its borders are closing (literally), its schools are under threat for proposing to educate students about factual historical events, public funding for state colleges and universities has been threatened if they teach theoretical content, and this is a small sample of problematic measures already enacted, or under consideration. On the other hand, Florida is also a metaphor for just what the county needs, moving forward. After all, the state is still primed for population growth, increasing diversity, increasing tourism-related businesses, and of course, a perpetual sense of wellbeing from all that sunshine.

Florida has become a harbinger for the rest of the country.

I will remain hopeful, but I will also be paying close attention to where Florida goes. In the meantime, and all the time, I urge you all to VOTE, Vote, vote.