Friday, October 21, 2011

What Does America Stand For?

What does America stand for?

This question resounds through emails, blogs and conversations during this, our election season. Can I answer it? No. I have no more chance of answering this than pigs flying. Instead I think that the real answer to this question is a composite of everything every American has already thought and written and said. That is complex matrix, but still just a smidgen of the complexity of America. I'll add my thoughts to the ongoing answer this way.

Recently my wife and I were able to take a driving trip from Kansas City, Missouri to Saint George, Utah to visit our co-in-laws. They had located there because after several yearly vacations to the area, they decided it was where they wanted to be. Packing up and leaving years of living behind them, they took that plunge to move on faith that jobs would be available to those wanting work. They had a dream and acted on it. The American life encourages its citizens to act on dreams and make them happen.

Driving across the Flint Hills of Kansas to the west and then through the imposing Rocky Mountains, I could not help but reflect upon what our predecessors thought when they made that journey in covered wagons, on horseback, and walking. Did they think of the riches ahead? Did they long for land and plenty of food for the raising? Did they just look at the wide open spaces and sky and feel like a minuscule speck on the back of the Earth? Did they despair of ever seeing their families and friends left behind? God knows they prayed for their loved ones that died along the trail, yet they somehow dredged up the courage to continue on. I think that all of this and more was going through their minds on that 2 to 3 month sally into their futures. My America was built on the hearts and backs of these brave and courageous men and women from all walks of life.

It is said that when the Golden Spike was driven and our country was crossed by the railroad, the talent and toughness of people going west dropped substantially because it was then easy to travel west. Keep in mind that there was really no law enforcement west of the Mississippi at that time. Before the railroad, people kept society by simply being human. Sure there were altercations. We all love stories of the “Wild West,” with its gunfights and land grabs. Remember though, that the vast majority of citizens did not engage in any of that. They tilled the land, helped their neighbor, cared for their family, and worshiped God. They built their lives, homes, churches and schools without any help from a King or an intrusive government. Success reigned in spite of, or because of, that.

America grew and prospered. An unlimited country to be plowed, sown, and reaped from, through hard work and fortitude. Was someone here already? Of course. The American Indian did not give up the land readily and easily. He fought and died for his heritage, just like his ancestors fought and won, sometimes lost, in taking land from other tribes. This country compensated for its expansion the best way it knew how at the time with reservations, jobs, and incentives. Now the American Indian is an integral part of the American mix. This was the one and only time we took lands in battle. From Italy to Germany, from Japan to Iraq, we fight in and for, sometimes against, but never occupy or annex. No; we rebuild what we wreck and set the country back on its feet.

Our founding leaders believed and put in writing that, “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This phrase begins with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” To be “self-evident,” means simply that there is no question about it. It is a fact of God and of humanity. We fought among ourselves 87 years later, to hold this truth above all others and to hold these states together. It was observed that the slavery society in part of our country was diametrically opposed to our root beliefs in the founding. This could not stand. Five hundred thousand of our ancestors died in this civil war. The Southern States and part of the North were decimated. Did we then go to Europe and ask for help to rebuild? No. We knuckled down and began the long journey again to rebuild this dream, this “social experiment.” We are not a “social experiment,” anymore. We are Americans and citizens of the greatest, most generous, and strongest country this planet has ever witnessed.

The United States is not perfect. God grant that we never will be. We learn and grow stronger from our mistakes. Sometimes our benevolence gets in the way of doing the right, or pragmatic thing and we'll make the same mistake again and again, but by and large, we'll pull through and the world will be a better place because we acted. To not act is an option that is not in the American operational handbook. Some would argue that the United States only wants to spread its form of government around the World. Any American would tell you that is an impossibility. This American culture and representative democracy was uniquely formed over many years by the types of people mentioned earlier. From the cries of, “No taxation without representation!” “Give me liberty or give me death!” “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!” “I have a dream!” Americans still have a dream, but it's hard to pass that dream to people of other nations who have been repressed or coddled by dictators or monarchy's their whole lives.

Well, this is my America. I've not told everything I wanted to, nor have I told it very elegantly, but I wanted to add to the stream of conscious thought. We are 300,000,000 strong and there are that many thoughts and stories about this country.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very insightful and thoughtful article.
Thank you