Leading news of the day: Phony vs. real

Even regular and thoughtful news consumers might think that the most pressing issues facing the U.S. are Critical Race Theory and more generally how public schools teach history and social studies; the conservative “parents’ rights” movement intent on banning books that might make students “feel bad” about themselves; the dangers of a resurgent “affirmative action” mentality and out-of-control identity politics; consumer commodities price inflation (apparently because ordinary Americans have too much money to spend); and – of course – the imperial designs of Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin on Ukraine, if not on the whole of democratic Europe.

Please, social workers, let’s not be deluded. Whatever the value of serious discussion of these and other hot-news items, they are not the principal challenges facing the nation, and certainly not the vulnerable populations that social work cares most about. Here’s what should be occupying the most space in our news feeds, not just one day but every day:

The climate emergency, already wreaking havoc, and certain to wreak much, more more in the years ahead, with dramatic and deadly impacts on every system – individual, family, group, community, nation, world.

The endless pandemic. Covid is not over, not by a long shot, despite what appears now to be a prevailing “let it rip” policy (emanating not just from red states, but from the blue Biden administration itself). We can pretend to have achieved a “new normal,” but that pretense ignores the reality or mass infection and a continuing death toll on an unprecedented scale.

Extreme precarity of roughly half the nation. fed by screaming inequality and economic injustice, a radical imbalance of power between owners and workers, the shredding of consumer protection regulation, and the starving of the social safety net through defunding.

Systemic and seemingly intractable racial, gender, and class injustice and oppression. Do we social workers really need to point out that suppressing the exposure and discussion of uncomfortable realities does not conveniently make them disappear?

Political gridlock, bordering on two-party polarized anarchy, sapping the capacity of government to respond effectively to real problems, and thereby steadily undercutting the legitimacy of government itself. This deepening “de-legitimation” crisis is fertile soil for the cancerous growth of anti-democratic (if not explicitly fascist) extremist elements.

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