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A response to John Vander Meer's article "Sizing Up America":

Reading your opinion piece in the Spring 2001 Spark reminded me of Yogi Berra's famous quip, "deja vu all over again." Having graduated from Calvin College just over 20 years ago, I can relate so well to your experiences and conce rns. Be of good cheer, there is good news. You, your classmates, your fellow American citizens and even the world's large and diverse population can be OK if willing to adhere as best they can to a couple of simple (simple, not easy) principles. More on those later.

As a student at Calvin in the late 1970's, I was appalled by the same meaningless statistics you cite regarding America's seemingly outsized use of energy and natural resources while having only 6% of the world's population. Let me provide a big hint; America also happens to produce a share of goods
and services to the world which far outstrips our size in population as well. Thus, we use a commensurate amount of resources. What is amazing to me is how little change and innovation there has been among the various left-wing idealogies who use these statistics to scare impressionable young minds in the 20 plus years since I left college. I guarantee you there has been more innovation and change in the most conservative Christian Reformed church in
Zeeland, Michigan in those 20 years than among lefty idealogues.

It is one of the reasons they have lost the debate in the real world. You can't survive and prosper in the world when you refuse to accept change, admit mistakes or be willing to innovate. College campuses have always provided that unique environment in which 100% turnover of young minds every
four years allows the same old stale ideas to keep sounding new.

I also went to Europe during my Calvin years, although my experience in the hostels with people from around the world was in Amsterdam. I remember playing foosball one night with a South African, a New Zealander and a German. It was just one part of an awesome experience. Hopefully you didn't
participate too much in some of the other not-so-good things that go on in these places (or at least did in the 70's), if you know what I mean. They had all the same complaints in 1978. The phrase "stupid American" has been around a long time.

Also, people are not starving in the world because of the greediness of American farmers or because we're not giving away enough food. People starve in the world because they live under despotic, socialistic and stupid governments that abuse their people for their own selfish purposes. It is the most unnatural thing in the universe for human beings to starve
themselves. It goes against every law of survival. It can only happen on a large scale when governments, either through stupidity, ignorance or evil intent (e.g. Sudan), allow it to happen and then enforce at the point of a gun its continuation. We should try our best to alleviate the suffering we see around us. In a fallen world evil will always find a way to flourish, but we should never give up fighting it, God hasn't.

But as I said, be of good cheer. The great thing is you have challenged your mind these last four years and no doubt have learned a lot, not all from books. Just keep in mind you will have to unlearn as much or more in the coming years, and then re-learn all over again. Calvin College, in my experience, didn't help me because of what I learned. Calvin helped me tremendously because it taught me how to learn, it showed me a bigger world than I was aware of up until that point, and it allowed me the opportunity to persevere despite mistakes to achieve my goal of graduation. Those were invaluable experiences.

You have had the opportunity to travel and meet interesting new people. If I were you, I would hurry up and do more of that. Trust me, it's hard to backpack through Asia or Europe on 2 weeks of vacation a year. Finally, a few simple principles I learned somewhat slowly that have helped me. Always remember that God is loving, merciful, gracious and perfectly
just. He wants to know you personally and hear from you regularly. Make sure your faith is your own and not someone else's. The storms of life will blow down anything less. Should God's plans for you include a wife and children, cherish and love them, spend time with them. There will be many things in the world, both good and bad, that will want to pull you away from them. No matter how enticing or exciting those things may be, in the end you will regret an unbalanced life in which your family suffers because of your actions, inattention or selfishness. To keep that balanced life exciting and fun, learn to take some risks once in a while. All growth comes from risk taking.

I wish you all the best and God's blessings! Now go conquer the world.

Jim Slagter '80
Wayne, N.J.

We welcome your feedback! Email spark@calvin.edu to share your opinions with us.
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