Omens for rising generations


There’s the old expression that when consumed by, or overwhelmed by too many goings on, one might be unable to see “the forest for the trees.”

Those with less experience in life can be more susceptible to the growing “noise” of our times.

It’s no revelation to point out that we live in a 24-hour news cycle, that our cell phones make us ever-present to friends, colleagues, bosses and, of course, the marketing monsters of the internet, who stalk us every minute of every day. And most of us are also guilty of spirited consumerism in the daily hunt for good deals on the internet. Then, of course, there’s our jobs, our schoolwork, daycare for kids, what’s for dinner, when to do the laundry.

In addition to all this, we are now bombarded with misinformation, disinformation and deep fakes which require time to sort out, unless we’re indifferent or want to believe everything we read online.

It’s more than a forest, it’s a jungle.

Despite this jungle or forest of distractive interference, there are real obstacles to America’s future that rising generations will need to heed at the peril of not just America’s future but the world’s. Let’s have a look at the “trees” that we sometimes have difficulty seeing or focusing on.

Our democracy

It’s an obvious place to start. Our nation was conceived on the principles, values and ideals of democracy. It goes without saying that the validity and credibility of our electoral system is fundamental to the sanctity of these democratic ideals. Yet both Russia and China have, with certainty, tried to undermine our elections. They believe that by making our citizens distrustful of our electoral processes, that they can destabilize our government and create the kind of havoc of pitting one American against another, all by disinformation and deep fakes.

Making matters worse are some of our own politicians who discredit our elections and our own democratic institutions for no other purpose than to cause disruptions. Nothing pleases global dictators like Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping more than to see our own people do their bidding.

I cringed this week when an opening speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Jack Posobiec, joyfully touted “the end of democracy.” To be precise he said, “Welcome to the end of democracy. We are here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on January 6, but we will endeavor to get rid of it and replace it with this, right here,” he said as he held up his fist dangling a cross. Free speech? Probably. Seditious? Extraordinarily.

I have a friend who said to me one Sunday morning that he could never understand how Hitler could ever rise to power but “Now,” he said, “I do.” We need to be vigilant of such treasonous political behavior which defiles the sanctity of our nation.


Recently, I wrote about how this country was built on the backs and ambitions of centuries of immigrants to America. But today’s world is an evolving paradigm. We will always need and embrace the young and ambitious emigrants who fuel our ever-growing economy.

But we now live in a world with an increasing crisis of climate change, forcing climate refugees to flee less inhabitable and less productive lands. We also live in a world that seems to be breeding dictatorships, dictatorships that erase freedoms, control judicial outcomes, assassinate opponents, jail anyone who disagrees with them, are indifferent to genocide, and serial violators of international laws.

It is no surprise then that people are fleeing these countries in droves, and that’s a problem for countries trying humanely to absorb them without creating a difficult burden on their homelands. It will require astute immigration policies by smart, engaged citizens and their political leaders. Yes, there have to be rules, laws, procedures, and limits that are both humane and yet conflate with the spirit of our nation’s democratic values.

American leadership

In a world that has seen a proliferation of dictatorial predators trying to impose their oppressive and dystopian machinations on the rest of the world, particularly weaker nations, American strength, power and influence become paramount. The world desperately needs us and we need our allies as force multipliers of that strength and power. Now is no time to become isolationists who just hope and pray that these demonic strongmen will just go away. We need to be a unified nation that stands our ground in the face of these determined despots.

Climate change

Climate change is a game changer. It’s a creeping threat that can kill our planet and be done with us before we realize it and can do anything to remediate its effects. It’s that simple. As my mother used to say, “I word to the wise should be sufficient.” We fail on this front and it’s all over.

Irrepressible technology

Today, few people would disagree with the notion that technology is a two-edged sword. It holds promises of huge leaps forward in medicine, science, engineering and design. Looking in the rear-view mirror we see the technological impact of computers, the telephone, computational efficiencies, the printing press, aerodynamics, the internet, the steam engine, and of course the mobile phone.

Technology also has the potential to exhibit a dark side, casting a shadow over societal norms, moral standards, democratic values like privacy, natural expectations related to truth and a disdain for deceptions and dishonesty.

OpenAI, the artificial intelligence company responsible for the ChatGPT and other generative AI, recently proclaimed another manifestation of its work. Instead of programming and manipulating tools to create artificial images and videos, now they have enabled users to simply say: “Create a video of Xi Jinping walking through Times Square, meeting President Biden and then turning and kissing Dolly Parton.” Shazam! Looks completely legit. No programming tools required, just say the words.

We have absolute proof that both Russia and China have used advanced technology to corrupt our elections, and now it just gets easier. Hyper-partisanship even bows to the genie, anything to create false images that will damage the image and reputation of political opponents.

Worst of all, we are fast approaching the portal to neverland where users must assume they cannot believe anything they read or see on the internet.

A word to the wise? How to control for these critical issues and developing dark shadows will be a generational challenge for rising Americans of all persuasions.

Bill Sims is a Hillsboro resident, retired president of the Denver Council on Foreign Relations, an author and runs a small farm in Berrysville with his wife. He is a former educator, executive and foundation president.

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