We all know what “ American Values” are, right? In this election year I’m not so sure.
As a nation, we seem to have lost our own identity, and found nothing but a deep, blinding rage. I must confess to having the same anger. The only people who truly don’t entertain the possibility that this whole system is rigged are the 1 percent benefiting from that same system and the politicians, of course, breaking America, so they can promise to fix it. Each candidate seems to espouse values that are different from the candidate next to them, and many are advocating positions that fly in the face of our constitution, our treasured right of freedom of speech, the rule of law and one of the founding premises of our whole way of life- -separation of church and state. We have one candidate who has all but told us outright that he wants to be a dictator, who has refused to disassociate himself from two white supremacist groups . . . and we love him. But our anger may be blinding us to reality and placing us in the alternate universe of reality TV –only we won’t get to turn it off.
For instance, I am a Christian, but I don’t want a theocracy, and I’m really wondering if that is where we are headed. I think part of the reason there is so much support for Trump is that he seems to be the only Republican candidate that is not intent on building a theocracy, and many of us are frightened of such an occurrence.
America was founded based upon freedom from religious dictates and religious persecution coming from the State. America was originally populated and governed by devout persons fleeing state established religion, and was created with a very important safeguard of our liberty- separation of Church and State. My being a Christian does not free me from that history.
We poke fun of and decry Sharia law, which is the product of melding religion with the government. In fact, we regularly send our soldiers in harm’s ways to fight the injustices and carnage brought about by such regimes. But, if you listen to some of the campaign rhetoric, this is exactly what we want to become. When we don’t agree with the Supreme Court and the law, we will simply ignore them, because “ God’s law is a higher law.” If we suspend the rule of law and the very structure of our government because some don’t agree, what happens to a land by and for the people?
More importantly, do you want the President or any government official interpreting the word of God for you and your life? What if you are an atheist? What if you are Jewish? Do you want a government with the attitude, “ It’s Christianity or the highway?” Ted Cruz being the arbiter of what is right and fair according to God… No, thank you. I’m sure he is a great guy, but no. Not even Rubio, thanks.
The one word all of us can still agree on as an American value is freedom. Freedom to say and do as we please. Freedom to associate with whomever we want. Freedom to gather in protest…unless at a political rally? All of us remember and want to keep the freedom to practice our religion, but with that same freedom, goes the equal freedom from religion, meaning government cramming certain religious beliefs or practices down our throats. Here, the definition of “freedom” gets murky.
In this very scary campaign “ freedom” has come to mean freedom from all laws we don’t like. Freedom from Supreme Court decisions we don’t like. Freedom from the duty of our elected officials to work with and compromise with each other for the greater good of their constituents—us. Freedom from standards or statesmanship. Freedom from facts or scientific bad news. Freedom for scientists themselves, their research, and their curriculum in our schools. Freedom from having to be concerned about our fellow man. Haven’t we had enough of this? We all have to work with people we don’t like. We all work with and live with people who have different ideas and values than we do. Why can’t Congress and the President do what all of us do every day?
Healthy skepticism of science is a good thing. Remember the nutritional pyramid, that’s been turned upside down three times? Statistically, one can prove anything.
But, that’s different than ignoring what our own eyes can see all around us. How can our children grow up to make the world a better place, if we tell them not to believe their own eyes?
We are all angry to the point of rage at what our Congress and government is doing to us and instead of what it should be doing for us, but if we let our anger blind us, we could get anarchy… or even worse—a dictatorship, in the bargain.
I’ve heard a lot about the American value of respect in this campaign- getting it, not giving it. “No one abroad respects us anymore.” America isn’t “ great” anymore?
I went to the latest Michael Moore film recently, Where To Invade Next. I prepared myself for an anti- American piece of propaganda. It was exactly the opposite. It was a love letter to America and a reminder that we can solve problems- we’ve been solving other people’s for centuries, and a suggestion that we take that wonderful American can-do value, and apply it to our own country. He pointed out that the countries that are “ beating us”, in education, standard of living, health care, and putting financial criminals in jail, never set out to “ beat us”. They set out to borrow our values and applied them to their own people, usually with our help. The most poignant scene in the film comes when a group of Italians are asked what they think of America. The answer was quite a jolt: “ You couldn’t pay me enough to live there. You act like you hate each other. I wouldn’t want to be treated like you treat each other.”
This is what makes America great: we still rush to aid virtually anyone in need or who is being oppressed… somewhere else. Can we at least focus for a minute on ourselves with clear eyes and see the millions of people who don’t have enough to eat, our crumbling bridges, our poisonous water and the college graduates who can’t find work at a living wage? I believe we still have the will to dig in and fix our problems and to hold our “ leaders” accountable if they will not help us do this, because America never stopped being great.
It is still great because the average American is a pretty great person. Though facing unprecedented challenges, the average American cares about the poor, the oppressed, racial and criminal justice, his neighbor across the street and last, but not least, peace. We’ve exported the best parts of America: fairness, justice, hope, the ability to look at ourselves and change for the better and the American Dream itself. Let’s re-patriate them!