Like many Mennos in the United States, I struggle with a love/hate relationship to my country. As a scientist, I experience some similar feelings. Here are some of the things that drive me crazy:

1) Our scientific literacy

We accept science when it’s convenient. We ignore it (or deride it) when it’s not. Sometimes, we even try to legislate it.

Q: Which countries have not adopted the metric system as their official measurement system?

A: Liberia, Burma, and the United States.

Fine company, don’t you think? Let’s not discuss the Creation/Evolution debate; global warming; or other environmental concerns. Just give us new electronic gadgets to amuse us.

2) Our criminal justice system

Q: Name the top five countries for executions in 2009.

A: China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United States.

Ugh. Here’s another question:

Q: Name the countries with more than 700 prisoners per 100,000 people.

A: There is only one: United States. We have 4% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners.

I could get into the racial and economic inequalities in our system, but I won’t. I’ll simply say that I think that justice demands more than retribution. We need to start thinking about reconciliation and restoration.

3) Our health care system

I’ve reflected on this before.

4) Our societal polarization

We’ve forgotten how to conduct a civil discourse.

5) Our federal budget

It’s not balanced and it’s tilted heavily toward the military. Why can’t we embrace things that make for peace?