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China began service Wednesday morning on the world’s longest high-speed rail line, covering a distance in eight hours that is about equal to that from New York to Key West, Florida, or from London across Europe to Belgrade. Bullet trains traveling 300 kilometers an hour, or 186 miles an hour, began regular service between Beijing and Guangzhou, the main metropolis in southeastern China. Older trains still in service on a parallel rail line take 21 hours; Amtrak trains from New York to Miami, a shorter distance, still take nearly 30 hours. Completion of the Beijing-Guangzhou route is the latest sign that China has resumed rapid construction on one of the world’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure projects, a network of four north-south routes and four east-west routes that span the country.
Remember when America used to do big things? Remember when Americans used to dream big? Impossible wasn’t an obstacle; it was a challenge. John F. Kennedy challenged us to put a man on the moon by the end of the ’60s…and we did. We did it because we believed we could. We may not have known how at the outset, but we found a way. That’s what America used to be about- finding a way to do the very difficult and sometimes even the seemingly impossible.
Now? It seems America has become a land of limitations. We hear more about what we can’t do, or what we can’t afford to do, or what government shouldn’t do than we do about what we can, should, or must do. We can’t guarantee every citizen basic access to healthcare. We can’t afford to maintain our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. High speed rail? Fuhgeddaboudit. China may be able to do it, but in this country we’re burdened by a political class with no vision, courage, or foresight. Yes, I’m talking about Republicans and the Democrats who refuse to stand up for what America used to be and could be again.
We live in a country in which the right side of the political spectrum disdains education and science as luxuries valued by Liberal elites, where your ignorance and prejudice is every bit as valid as my knowledge and expertise. We have to import engineers because our colleges and universities can’t turn them out fast enough. Yet our public education system is ridiculously underfunded and ill-suited to prepare our children for the challenges of the future they’ll face.
That America is no longer a nation that does big things is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Republicans, in particular the Teapublican wing of the GOP, are far more interested in power and orthodoxy than in engaging in a discussion about how to keep America competitive. Democrats refuse to call Republicans on their dereliction of duty, and through their indolence have become derelict themselves.
That our system is broken should hardly come as a shock. That neither party appears willing or able to think about big things doesn’t bode well for America’s future. This will not be received well, but the evidence clearly shows that America is now a nation in decline…and our leaders are greasing the skids for that decline.
How is it that in the 52 years since JFK took office we’ve gone from the nation whose goal was to go to the moon to a nation that refuses to pay to educate our children? Why are we willing to sabotage our future…and how did we get to this point?
American exceptionalism? Only in the minds of those too doctrinaire and blind to recognize the reality unfolding before us.
WE DESERVE BETTER.