Perseverance makes difficult problems look easy

The country survived the insurrection, but the perpetrators and their allies across the country, their supporters in Congress and state and local governments, and of course, their instigator-in-chief are still out there. The good news is that a large majority of Americans, including some Republican Party leaders, found common ground in their condemnation of the planned and coordinated attack on the US Capitol, and our democracy bent but didn’t break.

That’s the backdrop as Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and their administration tackle our current crises and some of their systemic roots, and we at the Leader consider how best to capture the historic threads that led to the insurrection. Systemic change is hard, and the things that need changing are so deeply entrenched in our way of life that many consider them impossibilities, like traveling to the stars – or landing a rover on Mars. We’re here at the Leader to be a constant reminder that these things are possible.

We have recently posted an updated look at the political, business, and cultural landscape around climate change to see what opportunities there are for progress in the coming months and years. We’ve also spotlighted Brian Cannon, a leader in Virginia’s successful effort to end – or at least limit – partisan gerrymandering, and we’ve explored the rise of unrestricted direct cash grant-making that has become a viable alternative to the burdensome requirements associated with traditional philanthropy. Of note: This latter Progress Update by Anna Luo was accepted by the Solutions Journalism Network for inclusion in its Story Tracker database.

As problem solvers, we know that systemic change won’t happen unless we see and accept the root causes of the problems we wish to solve. Sometimes, it means looking at those problems through the long lens of history, and recognizing where we’ve made firm decisions that have defined the American character, and where we’ve waffled in ways that malign the American character. We did this recently in our storyline on immigration, where we look at how a seemingly inescapable nativist and racist thread persistently undermines whatever economic motivations and humanitarian impulses drive our more pragmatic policies. The resulting indifference of US law to the place of immigrants in our society is a stark contrast to landmark efforts to amend the Constitution and strengthen civil rights laws that clarified the place of Black and Indigenous people in society.

There are many who believe we may be at an inflection point, a point when the country may take a sharp turn in a new direction. Perhaps. Certainly, January 6th was a wake-up call to many who had seen but refused to accept the devastating effects of a United States president who spread falsehoods about the most basic elements of our democracy and who along with far too many allies in state and federal office still, as of this writing, refuses to acknowledge that he lost the vote in a fair and secure election.

As if on cue, Space X and NASA’s Mars lander, Perseverance, have over the last year reminded us of the greatness that can be achieved by commercial- and government-driven endeavors. As JPL Chief Engineer Rob Manning said moments after Perseverance landed on Mars and sent back photos, “This is what we can do as a country on all of the problems we have. We need to work together to do these kinds of things and make success happen.”

Written by George Linzer

Published on February 22, 2021

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