In the last post, we looked at several of the controversies Americans argue about, and I promised to come up with some answers. Well, here they are. It’s a magic trick worthy of Houdini or Blackstone or Dai Vernon. But I won’t be alone onstage. Assisting me is, of all people, Albert Einstein, who was known for making cogent comments on public issues.
Professor Einstein, good to have you with us! How is it that you are alive?
“Oh, nein, I’m still dead. I’m visiting from a very small universe at ze other side of a thirty-two dimensional nexus that shuttles awareness from one place to ze next. I really should write a monograph about it.”
That’s amazing! So, are the laws of physics the same in your new world?
“Mostly, except light travels much slower zan over in your universe, mit ze result that messages often arrive too late! I haven’t been able to RSVP in time for a single house party. It’s depressing.”
Sorry to hear that. Now, do folks over there have the same sorts of disagreements we Earthlings suffer through?
“Oh, ya, und zey fight wars und everything. Und ze answers still can come from ze same principle zat I enunciated back on Earth in ze tventieth century.”
I think it’s time for a drum roll. Doctor Einstein, what is your prescription?
Let me qvote myself … *ahem* … ‘A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.’ … No, wait, maybe it was: ‘The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
Well, perhaps the second quote is a corollary of the first.
“Ya, zat could be true. Hmm. I like ze vay you think!”
Can I quote you on that? Folks, Einstein likes the way I think. That speaks volumes. Now, doctor, your own investigations into physics answered puzzles about time and space by combining the two into one system, with the speed of light as a constant value instead of one that varied with the observer. This surprising answer completely resolved a major science problem that had flummoxed physicists for decades, using an inventive “outside the box” concept that changed the civilization we live in, with GPS satellites and high-tech medical scanners and so forth. Would it be fair to say that you meant for us to look, as well, at the sorts of either/or dilemmas our societies fight over, and transcend those controversies by offering imaginative answers that work for everyone?
“You mean, should ve be original in our thinking?”
Um … well, yes, I guess that puts it much better. And thank you so much, Doctor, for your kind visit and your wise words.
“Of course! Now I must return to my universe and check my mail. I’m hoping zis time I’ll get a party invitation in time to attend.”
Good luck, sir!
Speaking of time: now it’s time for me to make good on my promise to solve all of the problems I raised in the last post. With Doctor Einstein’s ideas firmly in mind, I will address each issue individually and suggest answers that might be attractive to both sides. Here we go: nothing up my sleeve …
Gun control: Legalize drug use! The high cost of illegal drugs is what drives half the crime in this country, and it empowers and enriches violent, gun-toting gangs. Legalized, street drug prices would plummet. People don’t rob convenience stores for a beer, and they wouldn’t for cocaine and marijuana if those were dirt cheap. Gun crimes would plummet, police raids and other intrusions into our privacy would subside, prison populations would be reduced by half, and liberals could toke in safety.
Environment: Award multi-million-dollar prizes to inventors of cheap coal-plant exhaust scrubbers, efficient carbon sequestration, and the like. We can take much of the budget for environmental enforcement — which would normally increase business costs, thereby reducing funding for eco-solutions — and use it to endow the prizes. Or the Gates Foundation or Elon Musk or Warren Buffett could ante up, and the winning inventions might be named in their honor.
Immigration: Let them in — but no handouts until they prove themselves. It’s the entitlements that enrage conservatives, and it’s the lack of acceptance for newcomers that ticks off liberals. This way, immigrants would no longer be afraid to go to the police or a hospital, but they’d have to pay for that emergency visit, perhaps with bare-bones group coverage purchased when they get here. After a year or two, having proven themselves, they can get a green card.
Sex education: School vouchers! We spend inordinate amounts of time arguing over how public schools should teach our children, when we can simply give ourselves tax credits and place our kids in whatever schools we prefer, schools that will discuss sex the way we want them to. Public teachers may holler, “But support for government schools would shrink away!” — which kinda points up a quality problem they’re having — but c’mon folks! UCLA and Michigan and Virginia Tech are public universities that compete brilliantly against private schools like USC and Chicago and Brown, all the while providing assistance to eager inner-city scholars. There’s no reason why we can’t do the same with public elementary and high schools
Gay rights: Remove state control over marriage! Why do we have to ask permission from the government? Gays crave the legal recognition, but the problem would disappear if the state no longer backseat-drove our relationships. Drop the tax incentives; let hospital patients draw up guest lists. Meanwhile, we could still marry within the religion of our choice … or simply skip off to Vegas if we wanted a secular ceremony.
Stem-cell research: This is the easiest one. As we speak, researchers are developing ways to create stem cells from our own skin and other tissues. Before long, they’ll be able to poke you with a needle and, weeks later, present you with a new heart or liver. And no embryos involved! It’s a sticky ethical problem solved by technical ingenuity.
Drug abuse: Legalize it! C’mon, conservatives, your home and your property are subject to confiscation if the authorities merely suspect you’re involved with drugs. Isn’t it about time to get the government out of your house? Besides, drug use in Europe goes down where it gets legalized. And you liberals: aren’t you tired of living in a country with more people behind bars than anywhere else on the planet? Half of all convicts are there on drug convictions. Live up to your name and liberate them!
Capital punishment: Life without parole for capital convicts. Sure, some of us want those murderers to fry! But permanent life behind bars actually costs less, and it keeps them off our streets and away from our families. And they get to suffer day after day for years for what they did, not just once on a gurney.
Church and state: Keep the government out of your religion! Liberals get this right away, so I’ll address the evangelicals. The very first words of the Bill of Rights — “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” — were put in there to protect your congregation. The Framers were painfully aware that millions of Europeans died in endless wars about whether Catholics or Protestants would rule the various countries — imagine that, Christians killing each other! — and they wanted it never to happen on their own shores. In fact, most of the original colonists came to America to escape persecution for religious beliefs. If you managed, somehow, to get the government to support Christianity, which denomination would be in charge? The Catholics? Baptists? Lutherans? Mormons? If you think you’d be happier under a Christian government, think again: the odds that your particular congregation would rule are vanishingly small. Therefore, you’d be forced to pray and genuflect in ways you despise, just to be accepted into a court of law or to receive government services at all. And your church would very likely be burned to the ground because it didn’t agree with the government’s brand of Christianity. Better to let sleeping dogs lie.
…There it is! Every problem from the first post, solved in the second! Ta-daaah!
Okay, some of you hate my ideas. Fine. But remember: I only promised to solve these problems, not solve them correctly! If you have objections, use some of that ingenuity that Einstein suggested, and think up better answers. Saying “My side is right, and their side is evil” doesn’t cut it. Your answers must work for both teams. Otherwise you’re spitting into the wind.
As for those of you who admire my solutions, I have a confession: I cheated. I didn’t discuss two major civic conflicts — abortion and health care — because they’re so fiendishly difficult to solve. If you can figure those out to everyone’s satisfaction, you’ll probably get a religion started in your name. Good luck!