We are a deeply divided a country, but if there is one thing all Americans can agree on, it’s the reality that we have a lot of problems.
There are the big ones hitting us right now: Covid-19, the resulting economic collapse and our nationwide reckoning with racial injustice. And then there are the others that may not be in the forefront for everyone but are no less serious. Climate change, healthcare, systemic racism, the national debt, income inequality, opioids, immigration, sex trafficking, mass shootings — they all touch us in some way. But there is only one problem in America that can be considered the most damaging and therefore the most urgent of any single one of those other problems, because it is the one problem that stands in the way of us finding solutions to all of those others.
America’s most urgent problem: We no longer have a shared reality. Let’s call it Problem #1
Why does the loss of a shared reality deserve a #1 ranking? Consider that the starting point for solving any problem is a clear understanding of all of its components: how serious it is, who it impacts, where it is happening, its causes and consequences and anything else one needs to know to fully comprehend its current state and begin the work of finding a solution.
The lack of a shared reality ensures that solutions to major problems will be perpetually out of reach. For example, we can’t possibly address issues like climate change and systemic racism when a critical mass of our population believes neither of those problems actually exist. Similarly, shutting down the spread of Covid-19 is like a set of continually moving goalposts that we can never reach as long as too many people don’t take it seriously. We can never embark on solutions to these problems until we achieve agreement on their significance, and that requires a common reality. It requires that we solve Problem #1.
With this in mind, let’s start at the only place we can: by acknowledging that Problem #1 exists. This is an affirmation in which agreement is unavoidable because if you disagree that we have a problem with multiple realities, it would be because you have a different reality than I do. Even if, in your reality, you are convinced that Bill Gates has implanted 5G chips in my brain so that I would write this, you are…