The Accidental Wisdom of America

One of the interesting aspects of the times we are in, is that people on both sides of the political aisle, want to be able to say they are proud to be American. We all want to say this is a great country, but many people are realizing that our history and our country’s foundation may not have been as rosey and great as we were led to believe.  The challenge then becomes, how do we have pride in our country? Well, I think we can still be proud of America, and be proud of what our country can be, without lying about our history and how we were founded.

Did Christopher Columbus discover America, and was he a cool dude, deserving of a national holiday?  No.  He didn’t “discover” America, and it’s long past time for us to stop celebrating him. What about John Smith? Was he cool? Not really, but I’m not an expert historian, so I’m not going to fine tooth comb his good and bad qualities. I do think we’ve had enough of celebrating the white men of our past. We should have a national holiday, to celebrate Pocahontas, who was strong, fearless, and stood up for her community.  The early immigrants to this country warred with Native Americans, and shipped in kidnapped, trafficked and enslaved people, predominantly from African countries.  Today we would call that human trafficking. It is the truth of how we built this nation.

Our forefathers did get one thing right though, and that was a desire to not be oppressed.  I know. It’s ironic, considering how they oppressed people of color, not to mention women. (Women have been oppressed since the dawn of time, but that’s another discussion). Our founding fathers were hypocrites about it, but they wrote our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution in a way that was intended to secure freedom for all people of this country.  Since the inception of this country, and to this day, African Americans have never known a time where they were not oppressed, and neither have Native Americans. We are not the country we claim to be, but we were founded on the wisdom that all people should be free and equally free.  It wasn’t necessarily their aim, for people of color to be equal, nor Native Americans, nor women.

But that is the accidental wisdom of this country’s foundation. It’s incredible, that our slave owning framers wrote a democracy that could create freedom for every man, woman and child. Not based on skin color, gender, or orientation. Based on the self-evident truth that all [people] are created equal.  Their documents have mostly stood the test of time, and today we keep pushing the needle forward. We are beginning to even talk about the casual, and not so casual, oppression of women.  Whether it be in economic disparity, or straight up sexual assault, intimidation and rape, the conversation is getting louder.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” ~ Theodore Parker

We have never had the equality, that we like to pretend we were founded on.  The grand irony of our country is that our founding fathers were rich lords. They weren’t all social progressives. They wore white wigs, tights, and most of them had slaves.  But they wrote the framework for our country, in a way that could move with us through time. We have the potential for equality, and a democracy that can protect it.  We just have to keep pushing the needle in that direction.

We have to be willing to amend the parts of our democratic framework, where we have learned a better more principled way to govern. We have to be willing to live up to that fundamental truth of a right to full equality for every citizen.  We must ensure our democracy continues to protect it, through our changing times. Our democracy must grow organically as it needs to, so we can be allowed to make changes, such as explicitly protecting the rights of minorities.

So maybe we can all be proud of what our country is about in truth, instead of a lie. We were founded, in truth, by a bloody history of oppression. We still have oppression today, but we are also still moving forward.  Like the unfinished pyramid on the back of our $1 bill, our country will never be “finished”. It is a living, ever progressing ideal. We can always do better.  We can always be better.  One way is to stop lying about our history; our past. We have an incredibly racist history.

That’s who we are, and we won’t wash our hands from it, by sweeping it under the rug, putting on rose colored glasses, and pretending it didn’t happen.  We won’t be able to move forward, if we insist on pretending racism isn’t alive and well today.  We need to address police brutality and accountability. We need to address for-profit prisons, and mandatory minimums. We need to address economic inequality and the need for equal access, to an equal quality, free, and public education.

We won’t be able to have gender equality, if we act like the #MeToo movement and people starting to speak out, is the end of the conversation.  It’s just the beginning.  We need to address how we can get equal pay to happen, and not just by outing differences in pay. We need to look at how our companies should be required, much in the same way affirmative action is done, to pay women equal to men, and to pay minorities the same as non-minorities.

I’m proud to be an American.  Like most countries, our past is not necessarily something we should be completely proud of. I’m proud of the “resistors”, who have stood up throughout our history.  I’m proud of the Harriet Tubmans, and the Allison Pauls, and the Martin Luther King Jrs. I’m proud of the every day citizens, who volunteer, march, run for office, and work to make communities a place of inclusion and equality. I’m proud of every citizen who shows up to vote, and knows that voting is the most patriotic thing a citizen can do. We should have 100% turnout, rather than the 30% – 50% we currently get.

I’m proud of the accidental wisdom of this country.  Even though we have yet to achieve it, we were founding on the ideal that we are all inherently equal.  The best a country/government can be, is one which protects and serves all citizens equally.  I believe we will get there someday, and it will happen when we can look at our past honestly, as well as our present.  It will happen when we come together, and stand up, not just for ourselves, but for each other. That’s how a people can preserve a democracy, and that is some awesome wisdom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s