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Of course, you could say that we are thousands of years old (from the date the first human set foot on Alaskan soil) or 234 since the Declaration of Independence. But I prefer 1607, the day people started speaking English and living here (Jamestown). That’s when America as we know it started to take shape.

I am hopelessly patriotic. Not sure where that comes from, because I never set out to be that way. And my patriotism is not comparative. I don’t think in terms of “better” than other nations. Having traveled extensively, I can easily see why Italians and Ethiopians are also patriotic.

So, let’s talk about America for a few paragraphs, since we’ve taken another trip around the sun together. Some random thoughts:

1) Patriots can question America and point out faults. Family can do that.

2) Americans need to respect their political opponents more. I am so tired of conservatives and liberals bashing each other.

Conservatives who don’t think liberals are right about anything (and vice versa) lack perspective. I am a family-values free-market guy. But I actually listen to my political opponents, value them, and learn from them. Demonizing Bush or Obama (depending on your flavor) closes your mind. Keep it open.

3) The immigration issue has degenerated into sound bites and posturing. Where are the real solutions that would actually work?

Politicians stir up xenophobia in order to pander for votes, and then they present no real plans to solve the issue. The result is hypocrisy (let them in but say we won’t tolerate it).

Like him or hate him, the last one to present a real solution was W. And his own party shouted him down. Since then it’s been useless pundit-pulpiteering.

4) America needs to re-embrace having children.

Listen to people talk about having kids or being pregnant. Trust me, they will usually imply that children are a liability.

This, not politics, is at the heart of our abortion statistics. Children should be seen as a blessing, not a curse.

And economically, we aren’t having enough of them to pay for our retirement. And then we wonder why we need so many immigrants to keep the country running.

We think that having children will get in the way of our development, but all of us with children know that NOTHING develops and matures us like having them!

And children with more siblings tend to be healthier and have better social skills.

5) America needs to go on a diet.

This is the main problem behind our soaring health care costs. I struggle with it as everyone else does.

6) America needs a big project or a frontier.

We lack vision as a nation. Haven’t done anything cool together since Project Apollo.

7) America needs to embrace the Open Source revolution.

This will most affect education. Stacking kids in huge buildings and talking at them is no longer the best way to maximize learning. We need much smaller schools which encourage friendship building and teamwork. Children need to be evaluated for aptitudes and these skills need to be brought out in teams. We need to re-visit job skills (whatever happened to vo-tech schools?), apprenticeships, and stop implying that everyone needs to go to the university. Children should learn how they are wired up and be motivated to develop those gifts.

8. America needs to solve her energy problem.

The gulf oil spill is a painful reminder that, economically, environmentally, politically, and otherwise, running our national engine on gasoline and diesel is not sustainable for the rest of the century.

Which of you is going to be the new Edison? Time for major breakthroughs.

9) America needs to redesign her cities around people, not cars.

The way we have built suburban tract housing has isolated our children and created a sedentary generation. Most Americans now live in a setting where there is nothing meaningful to which we can walk. It’s all designed around cars.

After many years in tract-land, we moved into a real (old school) neighborhood 8 years ago. I can easily walk to: library, bank, drugstore, post office, UPS, the beach, schools, and 25 places to eat.

Is your neighborhood designed around human beings or cars?

10) America needs to embrace local food and urban gardening.

You don’t want to watch massive food factories at work, especially with animals.

11) Our children need to be given more social free time.

We are over-supervising and over-scheduling their lives. As a result, they are no longer developing leadership skills.

12) It’s time to revisit our spirituality.

American faith is potent and vital. Its taproot is in the slave songs of the cotton fields. It is empowerment-based and transformative.

Listen to gospel music on a regular basis. It’s one of America’s greatest cultural gifts to the world. And develop a live relationship with a live preacher. Having a “rabbi” and a faith community is deeply enriching. There is a little “indie” church near where you live that could use your presence. They are doing a lot of good–join them.

13) We need to withdraw our military from the Eastern Hemisphere. Our future is in teamwork with Canada and Latin America. All North Americans should learn some Spanish. All Latin Americans should learn some English. We need to build a 21st century railroad to South America. We need to send out brightest and best north and south, not east and west.

Our over-involvement with the Old World has caused nothing but trouble and heartache. Most all of our war casualties (since 1865) have soaked the battlefields of the Eastern Hemisphere with their blood, and we don’t have a ton to show for it. The founding fathers saw this ahead of time and warned us against “entangling alliances.” We are obsessed with virtually impossible blood feuds in the Middle East, which they are going to have to solve on their own, and we all saw how this bit us on 9-11. Badly.

We could easily protect the Western Hemisphere, with about half of our military budget. Dream a little. What if we sent all of our young adults on a one-year sojourn to Canada or Latin America (instead of straight to college) to work and learn and build contacts?

In the broadest sense, everyone in the New World is an American too.

All that being said, I love living in this country. I love being American. We can rise to prevail over all of these challenges. I feel blest every time I wake up here.

God bless you all and God bless the United States of America on her birthday.

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Please pass the link to this essay on to everyone you know. Thanks!  Short version: http://wp.me/pGQxY-b0

Our institutions are rusting out.

Let me say from the beginning that I am an optimist for the human race and for the Creation in general. God will have his way with Creation and people are amazingly resilient and adaptable.

But I am a pessimist about the ability of our major institutions to survive this century.

The rust has gone beyond cosmetic. The core of our institutions are rusting

Sure you want to read this?

The church, the government, education, the military, and the economy are in terminal trouble.

Not that some form of church, government, education, military, and economy won’t survive. All of these functions are going to survive; but the institutions which carry these functions now may not.

CHURCH

Arguably the most resilient of all institutions (outliving languages and nations, and ALL ideologies), the Church has gone ‘sideline’ in the space of one generation.

The Church was the only major institution to survive the fall of the Roman Empire.

Irrelevant and ignored are the two adjectives that come to mind when I think of the 21st Century church.

Virtually no explicit Christian leaders, for the first time in 2 millennia, are first-team varsity culture shapers on our planet. We don’t even have an Oprah, let alone a Churchill.

Today’s 15-30 year-olds are ignoring the Church in unprecidented droves.

Most denominational organizations are ripped apart by political issues and are reaching terminal blood loss levels. Christianity is fragmented like never before.

GOVERNMENT

I live in California.

California, more or less first to try out everything, became ungovernable a few years ago. The USA is not far behind.

Our current form of ¬†‘democracy’ is based on British parliamentary and American constitutional decision making. Also on the idea of the sovereign “nation state.”

More Americans seem to believe in the sacred inerrancy of our constitution than believe in the veracity of the Bible. But its days are numbered because the institution it calls forth is no longer able to solve problems. It can’t do its job.

The truth is, the folks in Sacramento and Washington DC are no longer at the helm of our culture. They are not calling the shots.

The models they follow are based on pre-industrial and pre-information-age interaction. They are more and more unable to solve the challenges we all face together.

The European Union is facing increasing opposition from client states and their citizens. It is a faux-empire with no mass appeal or loyalty (from the citizenry). It lacks patriotism.

The Romans were unable to adapt to changing situations. Patriotism and effort is not enough.

Sometimes you just have to think differently.

EDUCATION

We all know that there are great educators out there.

Most of us were influenced by outstanding teachers.

But there is a nagging consensus that the way we do school and university is not working as it should.

We have been unable, in the USA, to figure out how to include all of the major lifestyle ideologies in our official education process. Abraham Kuyper of Holland was the last one to pull this off (about 100 years ago). So we settle for lowest-common-denominator secular humanism as our official education vibe.

And pencils and classrooms? In the 21st century? Our current elementary education model doesn’t even assume the presence of electricity. It would work almost as well with a pot belly stove and a chalkboard.

MILITARY

We are unable to create safety for productive citizens. Our USA military was designed to beat the Germans (tanks) and the Japanese (aircraft carriers).

The military of other countries is more or less totally impotent and unable to project power anywhere. Europe couldn’t even take care of Kosovo without our help.

The real threats are politically and psychologically (sometimes both) fringe people. Especially when they congregate and organize.

Call it extremism or whatever.

They want to blow up airplanes (from their underwear) over Detroit.

They form camps to train angry young men to hate and kill.

They are notoriously flexible and hard to locate. The most powerful military on Earth can’t find Bin Laden.

They generally hate Israel, America, or the UK–not necessarily in that order.

They, as strongmen, take over failed states and provide “stability” and pride for their followers.

As a result, harmless grandmas have to take off their shoes at airport security, getting their water bottles confiscated, and honest people have governments limiting how much money they can move around. I have an 827 credit rating and the bank has to put holds on my checks because of the “Patriot Act.”

New “nuclear powers” are added every few years. An obsolete form of national security, but it continues to spread. Who will be the first to pull the trigger? Pakistan? North Korea?

We, and other nations, spend bazillions on ‘military’ but most of it is still focused on a WW2 that is not going to return. Or on a Cold War that is just plain over.

And Bin Laden and North Korea continue to do whatever they want.

ECONOMY

The economy has been fragile for quite some time. “Recovery” seems to be an elusive thing. It may not arrive; at least in the sense of returning to the way things are.

People may well prosper in the future. I believe they will. But the Reagan and Clinton prosperity patterns are not coming back. We are moving forward into something new.

The big time bomb is China. They have huge problems. 300 million Chinese (the entire population of the USA) are seasonal itinerant migrant workers. Their environmental issues are like gathering national mudslides. Their core industries are rusting out, and only 8-10 percent annual GNP growth “keeps the doctor away.” The day that expansion slips below that level…

The effect of this on the global economy will be staggering.

Money, also, is making no sense. What is it anyway? We are constantly measuring something that is an abstraction at best. Money is a very old school way of value storage; kind of a reel-to-reel tape in an iPod financial era. Money is simply not keeping up–obviously.

And our global banking system can’t exist without huge infusions which the governments paying them can’t afford to make.

CONCLUSIONS

Archaeology shows us that institutions calcify and end up in layers of ‘digs.’

We may be facing revolutionary changes in our institutions. Many of us alive today may see these institutions (peacefully or otherwise) make way for new forms of completing the same tasks.

Even our cities may not survive.

Cities (bigger and bigger) have to get their food from farther and farther away.

They have to ‘trade’ something in return for being fed. Cities cannot feed themselves.

It used to be that cities, by concentrating people, could create innovation that they could sell to people who would feed them.

With technological and communication breakthroughs, people can live in Northern Alberta and create innovation in conversation with the whole world via technology. We don’t have to live in cities anymore.

De-urbanization (along with other things) killed the Roman Empire. Rome could no longer add value to the rural areas who were feeding the great city. People moved to the countryside and reorganized as local fiefdoms.

The 21st Century is going to be the most revolutionary since the 6th century.

Are you ready for it?

What are you doing to position yourself to prevail?

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