As world leaders descended onto the United Nations Headquarters in New York City a month ago, one fact permeated the tense atmosphere and scathing rhetoric, that humanity has few places to turn, few leaders to look up to, and little options left in tackling the great woes of the 21st century. The fog of disillusionment does not only hang over Washington DC, but also over London, Beirut, and Tehran along with other places, as extremists consolidate power, or attempt to, and moderates evaporate amidst a landscape that is burning from the fires of climate change, religious fundamentalism, and neo-imperialism. This is the world we live in.

People are becoming increasingly agitated on all fronts, as the social fabric of the United States strains under the pressure it endures from all sides, each trying to seize and claim it as their own. The same situation is taking place in Lebanon, as well as many other Middle Eastern countries as the long era of American backed authoritarian dictators decays amidst the rising power of Political Islam, which is as authoritarian and undemocratic as the regimes it is toppling.

Ahmadinejad, the neo-conservative and religious fundamentalist leader of Iran along with the help of the miscalculations and juvenile blunders of the United States, has been able to consolidate power in a country that 6 years ago was about to undergo a democratic revolution against its ruling theocracy. But why would the Iranian people want Democracy now, when the supposed democratic experience in Iraq has led to the deaths of 1 million civilians as well as a brutal occupation by the United States? According to another neo-conservative who has proclaimed himself a mouthpiece for a religion and perverted it just like Ahmadinejad, President George W. Bush now claims that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. A truly familiar situation considering weapons of mass destruction were apparently all over Iraq in 2003, one reason why we invaded that country, toppled its dictator and sparked a civil war that did not reveal WMD’s but only barbaric internal ethnic and religious divisions. Now the U.S. has equated Iran’s nuclear program with nuclear weapons, something that the state of Israel, Washington’s longtime ally will not stand for. Both Israel and the U.S. are now considering a pre-emptive strike against the Islamic Republic.

What is particularly distressing about this situation, as well as the situation of the Middle East in general is that the American people have been given two choices: Choose between Islamic Fundamentalism or American Imperialism, the latter of which many Americans see as taboo and refuse to address. Religious fundamentalism seems to be permeating many governments that are or will be involved in conflict in the coming years including the U.S, Israel, and Iran, three countries run by religiously influenced governments, especially the latter. No matter the religion, religious fundamentalism does indeed result in the decay of a country’s religious and political authority via demeaning propaganda and grotesque misinterpretations of religious texts and political ideology. What seems to be taking form is a clash not between civilizations, but between religious fundamentalists in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam that have taken control of their respective country’s political establishments, education systems, armed forces, and moral authority and are driving their populations towards intolerance at home, and armed conflict abroad.

American Imperialism has only made the situation worse. The War on Terror, and the invasion of Iraq precipitated a sharp decline of the United States image as the world’s innocent victim of terrorism and defender of liberty and freedom. Instead, the image of the U.S. as an imperialist empire that has devastated Latin America via free trade agreements and the drug war, supported Israel’s harsh policy towards Arab states, witnessed a sharp increase in domestic hate groups, and done little to help people in Darfur and Myanmar, has now become a permanent image of this country. Worse yet? Al Qaeda has seen its number of recruits skyrocket, Hezbollah is now the most powerful political party in the Middle East, Ahmadinejad along with Hugo Chavez are well admired, and the Europeans see the Americans as the greatest threat to world peace, even more so than Sudan, or Myanmar, or North Korea. The United States’ policies have exacerbated social tensions not only throughout the Middle East where Political Islam is making major gains, but in Europe where radicalized Muslim immigrants have the ability to bring down the dream of a secular Europe without borders via terrorist campaigns and assassinations, all vented towards America and her allies.

Despite such a dire situation, it would be asinine to say that everything is irreversible. If the American people do not elect a sensible and progressive leadership in the near future, and if the average everyday American continues to lead a life of excessive materialism, and intensely damaging apathy, our country will be plunged into an abyss of political turmoil, paralysis, and overall mistrust.

This would not only bring down this country, but the rest of the world as well.