Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Make America Great: Building a New America

Many of the lessons we learn in life are inadvertent. They're just things we pick up that stick with us somewhat like the gum on your shoe on a hot summer's day that gets all the way up in the cracks and you can't scrape it out no matter how hard you try. One of those moments for me was from my mom.

We were having a... disagreement about something: I don't remember what and maybe it's not really important; after all, it's what she said that matters. Well, it is important to know that it had to do with my performance on something or other at church in relation to the youth group. She was telling me how I wasn't doing a good job or not doing it to my potential or some such. It was the kind of thing my mother never really said to me, maybe because she didn't need to or maybe just because we didn't have those kinds of conversations -- I don't know. We never had those kinds of conversations, but I don't know if it's because we never needed to have them or not. -- but on that day she was, I felt, berating me for some imagined shortfall, and it pissed me off.

There were two things going on here:
The first was that I was doing better than everyone else involved in whatever it was that was going on. By a lot. I felt it was entirely unfair of her to be getting on my back by telling me I wasn't doing a good job when I was ahead of everyone else.
The second was that I knew she was actually right. Whatever it was we were doing, I was only doing just enough to stay in the lead. I wasn't doing a good job, I was doing a "good enough" job. That was what was making me mad, getting called on the fact that I was coasting. And I knew I was coasting, but, if I could get by with coasting and still be doing better than everyone else, why shouldn't I?

So, you know, I did what teenagers do, I yelled at her. Right there in the hall outside of the kitchen at church, because that's where she worked, as the cook at our church. So I yelled at her at church and at work. At least there was no one else around, though, right? I yelled something like, "I'm already doing better than everyone else!"

And she said, probably also yelling, though I don't actually remember, "But you're not doing your best!"

And I probably yelled back, "I don't care," and stormed off down the hall. I do remember the storming part. Because I was mad.

High drama, I know.

But, man, I have never been able to get that out of my head, the difference between being simply better and being best. Not "the best," because that's relative, but actually being at your best. Period. And that it's not enough to simply be better than everyone else, especially if that means you're not making any effort to be in that spot. What's the good of that?

Let's put it another way:
If 10 is "Best," you don't get to claim you're the Best merely by being a 6 while everyone else is a 5 or below. You're just being better than them, not actually being "Best.".

That said, America has never been "Great;" it's merely been "greater."

Even that has not been a claim it could consistently lay claim to, and it's certainly not a claim it can make now when we lead the world in... hmm...
We lead the world in gun deaths.
We lead the world in military spending. So that we can promote more gun deaths.
We lead the world in bullying. Because we have an administration that believes that power should be used to push people around to get what you want.

We do NOT lead the world in education.
We do NOT lead the world in health care.
We do NOT lead the world in science research.
We do NOT lead the world in renewable energy research or implementation.

The point, then, is that we cannot "make America great again," because it was never great to begin with. Which, you know, hurts me to actually say, because I have spent a lifetime, my lifetime, believing in "America."

Of course, I've believed in the ideal of America, not the way it actually turned out. I suppose I just have always we believed, until two years ago, that we were closer to that ideal than we actually were. Which is not close at all.

Having said all of that, America could be great. It could be Great.

  • It could aspire to the ideal of itself!
  • It could believe in education again. Believe that education is the door to the future.
  • It could quit focusing on a past that never existed and actually work on making tomorrow a better place instead of trying to make tomorrow into something that resembles an old b&w TV show.
  • It could promote equality for all people, the way it has always supposed to have been.
  • We could actually become a country of the people, by the people, for the people and quit letting rich old white men and corporations run everything.
Look, today is the day we celebrate stepping away from one egotistical, rich white dude who just wanted to boss people around for his own gain. Maybe we should look at whom we've replaced him with and quit being bossed around by the current egotistical, rich white dude who just wants to boss people around for his own gain.

It's time to make America actually great. It's time to build a new America, the one that should have always existed.

"We hold these truth to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed [through creation] with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among [people], deriving their [powers] from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it..."

Don't give consent to the current administration, the current administration which is destructive to Life, to Liberty, and to the pursuit of Happiness.


  1. There's always this sense of nostalgia, that the past was somehow better. Simpler. Kinder. And usually, that's not true. We remember the past through the lens of the present. We forget that things tend to get better than they were. (Not at present, though.)

    1. Liz: There's a psychology behind all of that: We tend to forget painful and distasteful things. Our brain just kind of hides those things because they're unpleasant. It leaves us with a happy glow about the past, which can't help but make the present seem... lackluster... by comparison.

  2. There are people with the mindset that if you have ANY criticism at all, you're somehow anti-American. If you think the constitution isn't perfect and need amending because it's over 200 years old, you're anti-American. If you think there should be regulations on anything, you're anti-American. We're just supposed to blindly follow our leader always, because that's not what frigging Nazis did or anything.

    1. Jeanne: We're very much an all-or-nothing culture. All you have to do is look at Amazon reviews to know that. It's all 5s and 1s. There's been some interesting research into the phenomenon.