Newspapers love to talk about it.
Politicians love to whine about it.
People with agendas can point out one problem after another.
Today, like any other day, it looks like we are on the brink of disaster and there is no way that we can possibly get out.
These people are wrong.
And when people look to the past to try and work out what the future should look like they are being short sighted and foolish. We should not seek to make America tomorrow look anything like America yesterday.
Yes. The founding fathers were really smart and great visionaries, but they also made tons of mistakes that have been corrected over the past 200+ years. In fact, their greatest contribution was that they knew they didn’t know everything and so they created a flexible and self-improving system. They could not even imagine the world today and would be mesmerized by what was built on their foundation.
Let’s look at a short list of things that America has overcome:
1) Revolution. We were a series of colonies run by the biggest and most powerful empire in the world. A comparatively rag tag group of “terrorists” were able to defeat that large empire in a brutal and protracted military engagement.
2) Country Construction. Other countries have done this, but very few have then subsequently formed a country that DIDN’T duplicate what they had just fought against. We DIDN’T crown a king. We DIDN’T end up with 13 different countries that blow each other up every couple of decades.
3) Slavery. Remember how slavery used to be legal? Remember how people would say if we got rid of it the entire economy would collapse? Remember how we fought a brutal civil war over it? Well… our nation survived that and it was probably the most difficult test in our history.
4) Child Labor. Like slavery child labor has a rich history in the US. And this isn’t ancient history. The final nail in the coffin of child labor was pounded in 1938. Now I know that there are kids who work and I’m sure there’s child exploitation, but it’s largely stamped out and a federal crime.
5) Women’s Rights. Remember when women were basically the property of men? Remember when women couldn’t vote? Remember when the entire idea of sexual harassment didn’t even exist. Well, it wasn’t until 1920 that the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote… something that would be unthinkable back in 1776.
6) McCarthyism. Remember when our country was locking people up for what they think? Remember when millions of people ran around believing that someone they know could be a spy for the Russians and that if we didn’t lock them up our whole country would be destroyed? Well… we survived that too…. and I know people see parallels with terrorism today, but it’s not even close to the same level… at least not yet. But we’ll survive that too.
7) Civil Rights. Remember the good ol’ 50s when it was totally legal to force black people to go to the back of the bus, drink from separate fountains, go to separate schools and not go into certain stores? Well… that’s gone too. And while racism is still alive and well it’s a completely different picture today. I see parallels here with the transgender issues today and I’m confident that will go down the same path… I just wish it didn’t take so much time and cause so much pain.
8) Cold War. Now we’re getting to something I actually lived through :). Remember when the world was going to be blown up at any moment? Thousands of nukes were going to destroy everything and the US was one of the countries that would be responsible for that. Well… we survived that, at least so far. Unfortunately there are still thousands of nukes out there, but I don’t remember seeing too many headlines that a massive nuclear attack is going to blow us up.
I could go on and on. I missed a lot. 2 world wars, the great depression, presidential assassinations, impeachment, getting off the gold standard, stagflation. Choose your poison.
TODAY’S PROBLEMS ARE NOT THAT BAD
Today we have climate change, shrinking middle class, destruction of manufacturing, rise of China, immigration, growing national debt, crumbling infrastructure, and so on.
I would argue that few of these problems rates as highly as the ones above, but they all seem much worse today. And I would argue that we are well positioned to respond to them, work out solutions and come out a better country because of it. Further, I think in 100 years we will look back and think “what the hell were those idiots thinking?”
And that’s the point.
We MUST look forward and create new solutions, not look backwards and pine for the past. That’s what makes America a great country… optimism and belief in the future despite the current environment of adversity and negativity.
Also, we underestimate the “Platform of America.” By that I mean that if you travel around the world what you notice is things like a reasonably stable rule of law, freedom to say and think what you want, the right to representation, due process, access to clean food and water, low crime rates, low infant mortality, support for education and entrepreneurship are NOT free and broadly available. Any person living in America is inside of a incredibly powerful platform that each of us can build upon.
That’s rare in the world today, and much rarer in history.
WAIT A MINUTE, ARE YOU SOME KIND OF BLIND PATRIOT NATIONALIST
Not at all.
America does and has done many terrible things, especially when we operate abroad. One of my biggest problems with America is that the way we act and behave outside of our borders is often the exact opposite of what we do inside. I wish this wasn’t the case and I hope in the future we can really become an exporter of certain fundamental principals that I think need to be universally available and aren’t.
We need to stop supporting dictators. Period.
We need to stop financing the toppling of democratically elected leaders.
We need to be opponents of the things we wouldn’t tolerate internally both in action and in speech. And I don’t mean fighting stupid wars, I mean supporting international frameworks that will transform the world in a positive way.
We need to provide our citizens health care.
We need to improve our infrastructure.
..and on and on…
America is a deeply flawed country that needs to do lots of work. And we’ve also done many terrible things which we can never pay back.
I’m also not saying “America is the greatest nation on earth.” Those statements are silly because there is no great basis of comparison. There are many great nations in the world and we can all learn from each other… but I DO think that America has one of the best systems for doing exactly that.
I’m also not saying that America will always be the #1 super power or the richest country etc. The future is unknowable and countries tend to grow and shrink all the time. The UK was once the biggest empire in the world, as was Spain. No longer. But I’d argue that the UK is also still a great country and has been around for many centuries longer than the US.
DON’T LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT… FIX IT
I often hear people say or imply that if you don’t love America, you should leave.
That’s cowardly. You should try to fix it and the people that tell you to leave because you don’t like something here miss the entire power of the American platform.
It NEEDS criticism, conflict, constant questioning, strong opinions and, unfortunately, even occasional violence, in order to be shaped, molded and improved.
The last thing we want is a country of people that are content with the way things are and if anyone disagrees with them they are invited to shut up or leave.
We should invite difference of opinion, stand up for our beliefs, argue, debate… anything short of violence and over time I believe we will come out with a better system… at least that has been the trend.
LOOK TO THE FUTURE
When I look at the past and present, makes me look to the future.
The solutions to today’s problems will not be found yesterday.
Slogans like “make America great again” are looking at things the wrong way around. There are things that ARE great today and things that aren’t. So lets figure out how to make the things that aren’t great better instead of trying to rewind to clock to some historical fantasy that didn’t and won’t exist.
Let’s build on this amazing platform and improve the world for ourselves, our children an our fellow humans of the earth.
If you disagree and think th
I don’t know about everyone else but I am optimistic that when I die the world will be a better place than it is today, and it’s up to all of us to make sure that happens.