Regarding their common – and to many, worrisome – future, neither the country nor HispanicLatinos have a plan. The much ballyhooed “bridge to the 21st Century” that Bill Clinton talked about in his re-election campaign is no more than a plank walk at the moment.
America – until now – never needed a plan. In its earliest years, the nation fought great political battles over a national banking system and government involvement in the development of a young country’s infrastructure that included canals, national roads and bridges. Once settled, these initial disputes opened up a continent to the economic energy thrown off by the Industrial Revolution that ultimately hurled America into the forefront of nations in the 20th century.
Through the years, America could do easily without an economic strategy. Its economy grew impressively using its own domestic market to expand decade after decade. Only the Great Depression caused any semblance of national economic thinking and when the country converted much of its manufacturing and agricultural production into a massive attempt to defeat fascism during World War II.
So promising and rewarding was America’s march to the future that it began to believe that no barrier existed to its perpetual growth. But the eternally young nation has aged and its economy has matured – under a veneer of high-tech triumphalism – with little sense of the way forward.
Confronting now a world it almost certainly will not dominate, America now seems clueless about the future, and the country is tense and anxious. Thrown off stride, America must recover and recreate itself. In wrestling with the future, the nation must understand the potentially pivotal role of its younger HispanicLatino population and, for the first time in history, incorporate them fully in the nation’s progress. Much more important is that HispanicLatinos themselves understand that the country has neither the stomach nor the purse to support full-scale, government-directed programs to grow the economic standing of their community, which must prosper for the nation to survive.
Even if the nation could afford to dedicate massive amounts of funding for the development of a single community, it would not do so in these times of partisan conflict and rising ethnic sensitivities. When America rebuilt Europe after World War II it did so for very specific geostrategic reasons. To keep the Soviets at bay, the country realized the value of reconstructing an entire continent and poured billions into it. The country could afford to do so then: It had the financial capacity to act and it had real and courageous leaders in Harry S Truman and George Marshall – and in parts of a responsible Republican Party now long gone – who understood the value and logic in saving Europe.
Absent visionary leaders today and a vibrant economy, the nation has embarked on a dangerous and rudderless passage – a development that will not make the lives of HispanicLatinos any easier. Being called upon to undertake a mission – to sustain America – that they are not prepared for and under almost impossible circumstances, HispanicLatinos will be mostly on their own. Many HispanicLatinos think about the future upon us under the prevailing notions of what it is to be an American – not a wholly proven strategy, given their status generally as second-class economic citizens.
It is evident that, at a minimum, HispanicLatinos have to think about developing a new sense of the years ahead – if not hurrying to design a self-directed, coherent vision for the future.
Feel free to forward these blogs adapted from previous writings, with additional thoughts published invariably in between.