Gary Horton | Capturing the Opportunity of Our Post-COVID World

Gary Horton

NPR (National Public Radio) has a lead that goes, “How in the WORLD do you keep up with all that’s changing in the WORLD?” Their answer is to listen to NPR, which is an awfully good start. NPR is plainly the most fair and balanced news source our nation has going. From business to culture, to science to politics, they research, report, and provide detailed coverage and presentations. “Sound bite gotchas” are almost non-existent. Indeed, if you haven’t listed to NPR for a while, try it. It’s like a sane breath of fresh air. In fact, there’s a local NPR program called, “Fresh Air!” 

Key in the above paragraph is, “How in the WORLD do we possibly keep up with the news?” The commonly preferred current shortcut is to have some blathering talking head from one side or another tell us what to think. Indeed, that’s easy thinking and a quick short-circuit around using our own God-given and educationally enhanced reason. But we see that over-reliance on talking heads, or biased, bigoted, or manipulative social media also warps our view. Our vision and views become blurred, as though that blathering talking head spread Vaseline all over our mind’s eyes and we can’t see clearly through the smudge anymore. 

And yet now, more than ever, knowing truth, having clarity, being reasoned, embracing fair AND determined leadership – is what’s going to get California and the U.S. through the new and unexpected post-COVID-19 challenges facing us.  

In my 65 years of living, never before have I seen our nation nor our state at such a crossroads of both tremendous opportunity and dire threat. Economically, environmentally and politically. 

Hair-on-fire news cycles would have us think that what really matters in the U.S. right now is shutting down all access to abortion, regardless of circumstance or a woman’s will. That the biggest risk to our nation is illegal voting (when none has been proved), requiring draconian laws fining folks just for handing out water to those waiting in line to vote and allowing local officials to literally overturn the will of their electorate. And biggest, in some quarters, remains that the 2020 election was stolen, even after virtually every last election leader in every last state has vouched for the veracity of the vote, and after no less than Mike Pence nailed the certification.  

And, of course, the constant rumble that California is a failed state, headed out to sea.  

These four issues dominate our news cycles and likely our minds. But in truth, these are distractions, keeping us from the biggest opportunities to truly make America and California even greater than they have ever been! 

So pay attention to the real issues determining our future: 

The West is on fire. Big time. 

Our Western water supply is dropping like there’s holes in the bottom of Lake Mead.

All of America lacks service workers but our immigration policies are stalled in stone. 

At least 10 million families have been hammered and remain slapped down in COVID’s path. 

Something has surely changed with our climate – and sorry to call it “climate change” or “global warming” – but again, in my 65 years, I’ve never seen California so hot, dry, burnt, with entire native species of plants and animals facing extinction. 

And we have a crime wave occurring in sync with many other nations as COVID cleaved winners from losers like few prior things and desperation is increased in poor places all over the world, both near and far. We are not immune. 

COVID-19 is not “cured.” Variants are real and threatening. Yet conspiracy theorist vaccine deniers and vaccine-reluctant, (mainly in Southern states) threaten to allow the COVID Genie back out of the bottle. 

California’s economy is on fire, like its forests. Plainly leading the nation, we’ve pulled away from everyone and nearly every nation, save China, in our recovery growth. Money is piling up in Sacramento and our less-than-prudent overlords are looking for ways to spend it. Housing is way up, gas is up, food is up, and people keep buying and our economy keeps growing.  

And driven folks keep on coming. Quick research shows California creates 40% more investable cash millionaires than the next state, Texas. It’s not even close. Add in real estate and retirement equity and California has truly been the Golden State to more folks than anywhere in the country. Folks flock here because there’s gold up in Silicon Valley and L.A. and our metropolitan cities. True, retirees and low-value-added firms sometimes leave, just like the ’49ers did when they struck motherlodes. They take their winnings and go back where life is slow – and cheap. That’s long been part of California’s legacy and what’s so wrong about that? Make your money here and move out when it’s time to slow down. So, we hear a lot about that, too. What to do to keep these good times rolling? 

Our colleges and universities are firing back up and, as before, we’re pumping out graduates who are in high demand in California, the country and world. Think what you will, but California higher education remains easily the national leader for student population, and is top-ranked for quality, graduation rates and affordability. Education may be California’s most important product and export. Forget pistachios or almonds – it’s B.A.’s, B.S.’s, M.A.’s and Ph.D.’s that earn us the real dough. 

How’s this for a list of the real concerns that should be top of our minds? And what a time of opportunity! We can both fix our problems AND enhance our potential, with sane, rational discussion and decisions.  

Yet act, we must. 

This post-COVID period has America in hyper-flux, and our society has become like a chunk of coal, under pressure to either explode – or become a diamond. And you and I get to live and see all this – even tossing in our zillionaires with their private space programs blasting their polluting rockets into our commonly breathed air… 

Any one of these topics is worth of a full column, let alone a full book. And that’s just what you’ll be seeing in Full Speed to Port in coming weeks. 

Until then, read from many sources. Listen from many sources. Think on your own. A lot. We’ll need everyone’s sane and informed minds to make the most of this unique time. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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