Nuclear meltdown in Japan; revolts in Africa and the Middle East, with our military active on three fronts; multi-billion dollar budget deficits cratering local, state and federal governments; millions out of work. Are we nearing the apocalypse, or a new age foretold by the Mayan calendar's December 2012 end?
More likely the world is just reaping what it's sowed. The Japanese catastrophe has hewed close to a Godzilla movie: nature unleashes the radioactive monster created by human folly. Populations held under the thumb of cartoon dictators finally had enough. America, tethered to the Middle East by petroleum pipelines, is trying to settle the angry young men in Libya and elsewhere down, ushering them away from the oil fields by distributing their favorite toys: guns and bombs. Look at that pretty explosion. Our economy? Countrywide, Madoff, and the banks took care of that.
Aside from military action, politicians' response to these alarming events has been oddly surgical, focusing on whether just the government's fingers and toes should be amputated, or might it be better to simply shoot the government in the head so we can hurry back to our private compounds. That vision-thing is absent, unless the vision is of a hobbled government waiving its crutches and yelling "cut that out" as monopolies and mega-corporations pick the pockets of the poor, while the rest of us play Angry Birds on our hand computers.
Through the rubble of government deficits, shafts of light show potential pathways to a future we might actually want to live in. California's energy policies are stumbling towards a more reliable and sustainable era. The federal stimulus package signaled that collective action can be taken in the midst of crises. And citizen-leaders are reclaiming underperforming schools and ill-tended green spaces, through literal grassroots efforts supported by a mix of public and private dollars.
Whether our travails have a spiritual dimension -- and really, what doesn't -- or are purely human made, our response should be the same: praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. Whereby "praise" might mean stop poking at your iPhone, and wake up to what's going on; and "ammunition" comes in the form of adopting public policies that create the kind of world we want for our children.