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Our Biggest Problem

What’s wrong in America right now? If we had one national priority more than anything else, what should it be?

I really like this question. Because while any of us can have a lot of areas of focus, at any given point one of them is in the lead. That is, you might be a parent, a spouse, a youth soccer coach, and an employee—but at each minute of each day, you are living out one of those roles more than all the rest.

What about for the country? What is our biggest problem? There are some good contenders. National defense is one. Can’t really have a country if we aren’t protecting it. Or maybe the economy, because if we all have good jobs we can do anything.

Immigration is a hot topic. As is the environment. Or maybe topics related to social equality. Or perhaps crime. And definitely, education.

All of these choices feel attractive, I think, because they fit the formula:

Of all the issues we face, _____________ is the most fundamental, because everything else depends on it.

Which makes me wonder if any of these traditional, most-important-problems-of-our-time are genuinely the most essential.

Because maybe the thing which is really weighing us down is not the questions, but the answers. Sometimes it feels like everybody already has the solutions! Spend more (or less) money, start (or stop) doing this one thing. Make this rule more strict (or more lenient.)

In short: Ban this, and allow that.

So many of us are utterly convinced that if a few simple changes were made, everything would get better.

But that is just not how the world works. Even in our personal lives, complexity is the reality.

Which is why I think the greatest problem we face is our collective lack of humility. We tend to spout off as if we have the answers, rather than stopping to figure out if we are even asking good questions.

We are in a crisis as a nation. It’s that so many of us have decided that we know best what to do in every situation.

And the answer to this destructive trend doesn’t require additional taxes, a new federal agency, or repealing a bunch of existing laws. All we have to do is one of the hardest things of all:

Stop speaking out of ignorance. And start saying more often, “I don’t know.”

Politicians, especially.

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