Tag Archives: United States

My hopes for my country

On this, the 240th anniversary of American independence, these are my hopes for my country:usflag

  • That all of its people value truth and resist falsehood. While it’s fashionable to distrust “experts,” the problem isn’t too many experts. It’s that the experts’ stories aren’t hitting home.
  • That we recognize our place in the world: not acting the part of the 800-pound gorilla, not hiding behind a wall, but collaborating and leading by example.
  • That we’re all safe as we go about our daily lives. Safe from terrorists, yes, but especially safe from Americans with too many guns and too little sense.
  • That no black parent ever again has to give their child “the talk” about how to keep from being shot.
  • That everyone who comes here to live, work, or study — regardless of where they’re from, what they believe, or who they love — knows they’re welcome.
  • That our attitudes and actions toward each other, and toward the rest of the world, are never rooted in fear.
  • That we elect leaders who are better than we deserve.

We can have all of this if we, collectively, want it badly enough. For a long time I assumed that we did. Now I’m not so sure. I pray that we’ll find the will.

What are your hopes for the U.S.? I’d love to hear from you, wherever in the world you live.

Honoring scientists, honoring science

Statue of Jöns Jacob Berzelius in Stockholm, SwedenOn a recent visit to Stockholm, Sweden, I encountered this fellow presiding over a pleasant city park that bears his name.

I’m ashamed to say that I had to look him up in the encyclopedia. Jöns Jacob Berzelius is considered a pioneer in chemistry, having developed the modern notation for chemical formulas in the early nineteenth century. In Sweden he’s so highly regarded that he not only has a park named after him, but his birthday (August 20) is observed as Berzelius Day.

What is it about the Swedes – who also created the Nobel Prize – that they so gladly celebrate the great scientists in their midst? More to the point, what is it about us Americans that we don’t? Oh, we love our inventors, because we love their technology and we love the economic benefits that come from their technology. But we rarely celebrate pure science. Where are the statues of great researchers and great theoreticians?

Sad to say, many Americans are skeptical of science. They’d rather mock science — for example, by throwing a snowball in the U.S. Senate chamber — than take it seriously. They don’t want to know the earth is getting warmer, because that might mean they can’t drive their beloved SUVs.

We love our freedom and we always have. But lately that freedom has turned into a license to live whatever lifestyle we like — with no ivory-tower, pointy-headed scientist telling us what to do.

It’s a damn shame. It’s an attitude that will hurt our country severely in the long run. And because our country is so big and so influential, it’s going to hurt the whole world. Already is hurting it.

We should take a lesson from Sweden – a country that knows how to honor its great scientists and a country that, not coincidentally, earns high marks for sustainability and for its use of renewable energy sources.