For decades we’ve been fighting losing battles against imagined dragons of poverty, drug abuse and addiction. Republicans and Democrats remain locked in an annoying stalemate, determined to quash each other’s agendas for slaying dragons and making social progress.

Since World War II we’ve been fanatically isolating and slaying the “ism” monsters of socialism and communism. Almost 30 years ago, shortly before collapsing under its own weight, I was fortunate to visit the USSR.

For more than a half-a-century, the Communist Party had been violently imposing its vision of a socialist utopia on the people. When I was there in 1988, fewer than a fourth were party members. Non-members had a parallel society to circumvent the party.

Last week, while preparing for a trip to Cuba, I read a timeline history of the tiny nation and how Fidel Castro’s weak, derivative notion of communism would have collapsed from corruption and inefficiency long ago.

But our devotion to isolating and starving it into submission bolstered its resolve. Cubans have a long history of independence.

The mythical monsters of poverty, drug abuse and addiction, and the ideologic ‘isms’ of communism and socialism can’t be contained or slain by frontal attack.

Our pathetic situation today reminds me of my experiences in the Soviet Union. Iconographic places like Red Square and the Moscow subway stations were gorgeous and awe inspiring; as are our Statue of Liberty, White House and halls of Congress.

Like ours today, their local streets and roads were badly in need of repair. Our homeless and hopeless are everywhere, even begging at stoplights. Their inebriates were part of the landscape.

Soviets I talked with then told me everyone either went without government services or found ways of getting things done. Many needed changes were accomplished surreptitiously, under cover of darkness or with local authorities looking the other way.

Here, it routinely takes a week for a first-class letter mailed in Lansing to find its way to my home in East Lansing. The last one, mailed from literally next door, took two weeks. If I need something this week, I’ll dodge potholes for an hour driving to and from downtown to pick it up.

To preserve our tradition of partisan stalemate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is holding the Supreme Court nomination process prisoner until after a new president is inaugurated next February. It will be at least a year and a half before the court will be assured of making majority decisions.

A political operative turned bureaucratic administrator at the Michigan Veterans Home in Grand Rapids resigned in disgrace when it was demonstrated that elderly and sick veterans weren’t receiving proper care. He’s merely been reassigned elsewhere in the department.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s hand-picked commission to study the Flint water fiasco excoriated everyone in the state and federal  government who was in position and failed to protect Flint residents.

In Lithuania in 1988, then still part of the USSR, people were openly defiant toward the USSR. Everyone knew change was inevitable. I was sure there would be bloodshed. The communist system collapsed within a year.

Here, this year, we have Donald Trump, the boisterous and clownish deal-making businessman who wants to be elected president. Interestingly, the premise in his promise of making America great again, that we’ve lost our greatness, hasn’t been challenged. Nobody shouts back: “Oh Yea?! We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!”

What happened? Where did our greatness go? To use a favorite lame excuse for governmental failure: It fell through the cracks.

We’ve simply lost a grip on our founding moral principles of equality, freedom and justice, written in plain sight in the Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg Address and Pledge of Allegiance.

Using our principles, much of the rest of the world built their governments and social systems. The Nordic nations, with their socialistic democracies, lead the world in measures of quality of life, satisfaction and trust in government. Ours languish far below.

Regaining greatness will simply be a matter of balancing our founding principles. But given our current circumstances it may easier said than done.

That’s a topic for another day.

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