Sunday, June 24, 2018

Americans Must Define 'Great' and Who it Applies to

Has the President of the United States lived up to his campaign promise to "make America great again?" The answer may depend upon whom you are asking. Looking at the advertisements for the midterm primary elections, it is glaringly obvious that the divisions we see in the electorate are largely manufactured by our two major parties, designed to pit us against one another such that the status quo of prosperity for the few is maintained. Citizens need to ignore political rhetoric and keep chugging along, as we have always done.

Let us start with immigration since that is the hot-button issue of the day in the wake of images of children sleeping under sheets of silver mylar inside fenced areas resembling cages. Children. Forget everything else. They are vulnerable human beings first, and every other label second, if applied at all. Speaking for myself, one of the facets of this nation that I believe makes it great is its desire to comfort the afflicted, as so perfectly worded on the plaque beneath the Statue of Liberty.

I did not know that our sentiments had an expiration date. When you are fleeing for your life and seeking safety, you do what you have to do, "legal" or not, to get yourself and your loved ones out of harm's way. This is not criminal behavior, it is a heroic example of one's obligation to oneself and their family. The United States can compound the problem, or it can do what it does best and create new and unique solutions that do not further traumatize people who are already victims.

One must also recognize that the U.S. does not exist in a vacuum, "America first!" chants to the contrary. Immigration is a global crisis. Withdrawing from United Nations Human Rights Council, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the Paris Agreement (on climate change mitigation), and other international bodies and treaties only exacerbates issues with immigration and other forces that impact U.S. citizens. One of the great historical aspects of the U.S. has been its willingness to cooperate in global peace endeavors. We are now abandoning our obligations and abdicating our world responsibilities.

Some will argue that previous presidential administrations have abandoned obligations to our domestic citizenry, especially in rural areas where fewer voters are dispersed over vast expanses of agricultural landscapes. The current Commander-in-Chief has managed to convince those folks that he can make them great again, when in reality it is business as usual, with more mom-and-pop farms, ranches, and businesses going belly-up or being gobbled up by multinational corporations. There may be an immediate infusion of cash into rural economies when a company purchases land, a business, or equipment, but it is a quick fix that will leave that community begging again in another few years, though hopefully not before the next election cycle.

Economic prosperity, this writer would argue, is not what makes America great. It should be a byproduct of greatness, if anything, something that comes as a tangible reward for selflessness, not greed. Aspiring to material excess is what empires do, and we know from history that such greedy pursuits end badly.

What is truly making America great right now is the stubborn determination of Americans to succeed in spite of government, regardless of what political party is in power. We come home after a long workday and rail at the television newscasters bringing us stories of want, war, and woe; but we go to bed, get up, and go to work again.

That work may be volunteering at the food pantry, for Planned Parenthood, the local chapter of the Audubon Society, or any number of other organizations doing what we believe the government ought to be doing. Bless each and every one of you. Whether your neighbor agrees with your "agenda" or not, you are making society great, and that transcends borders, politics, religion, race, economic status, and all the other things that supposedly divide us. It is that daily commitment to participating in things greater than yourself that makes you great, and by extension makes America great. Not "again," but still.

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