Wednesday, July 4, 2012
The United States of America is unique. It is one of a kind. It’s not uniquely free, however. It’s not uniquely democratic. It’s not uniquely just or right. It’s not uniquely educated or prosperous or crime free. It’s certainly not uniquely old … or uniquely new for that matter. What sets America apart isn’t any of this stuff … what sets America apart is its extreme diversity. No other country can boast about such radical religious, cultural, racial, or ideological diversity. It is the contributions of all these folks that have made this country strong, prosperous, innovative, and interesting. Now, this diversity hasn’t always been celebrated. In fact, America’s history is a history of resistance to this diversity. It is a history that includes slavery, internment camps, hate crimes, lynchings, and border fences. Nonetheless, the diversity persists. I think that is a wonderful thing. I love America not despite but because of its Chinatowns, its rainbow flags, its store signs in Spanish, its temples and its mosques, its soul food and its sushi, its blues and country music, its fasting and its festivals. If you don’t … then you don’t really love America.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Your wife is the most beautiful woman in the world. Your son is a combination of Einstein, Pele, Yo Yo Ma, and Bono. Your hometown team is always on the verge of the Super Bowl. So, naturally, your country is number one too. It is a beacon of freedom. It is all powerful and all desired. How could it be any other way? How could it be … except, of course, it is. More than forty countries have lower infant mortality rates than the United States. More than twenty five countries have lower homicide rates. The US ranks in the low twenties in life expectancy. The United States gets an “average” ranking from the OECD in terms of education. We aren’t tops in literacy. We are fifth in the use of the death penalty, behind only Yemen, North Korea, Iran, and China. The bottom line … we aren’t number one. The fact that I recognize this doesn’t mean I hate the United States. My kid is not going to be Michael Jordan … he’s three and I’m already fairly sure of that. That doesn’t mean I love him any less. I will be a Detroit Lions fan until the day I die, but I have never once thought they were on the verge of winning the Super Bowl. Recognizing that the United States doesn’t get everything right, or lately much at all, doesn’t mean I don’t love the place. It just means I see it for what it is … and love what it is. That’s more important when it comes to countries and children than it is football teams … because while there isn’t much I can do to make the Lions better I can help my children to succeed (although there is probably little I can do to help my son snag an NBA contract) and I can help solve the problems facing my country. Before I can help my country, or my children for that matter, I have to be able to admit that something is wrong. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my country. On the contrary, it probably helps to prove it.
Monday, July 2, 2012
There is a problem with Patrick Gaspard’s tweet. It’s not the course language, however. I’m not bothered by swear words. I’ve always been more interested in substance … and frankly I enjoy peppering my speech, and even writing with, more than a few choice words. Why the hell not? I’m also not overly concerned that Gaspard’s tweet will serve to stir up and unite Republican opposition. They’re pretty stirred up already.
The problem is that this comment by the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee just plays into the high school football narrative that has been allowed to linger far too long. This shouldn’t be about which side wins. The main goal shouldn’t be too crush the liberals or the conservatives. We don’t need pep rallies and cheerleaders. We need meetings and mediations, logic and reason, listening … Sure you want your party to succeed, but what happened to focusing on whether or not we fix the problems that are facing us, among them a health care system that every serious person agrees is broken? Republicans have been focused on denying Obama any sort of success on health care, or anything else for that matter, seemingly unconcerned with any negative effects that approach might have on the country. It didn’t matter if he borrowed their general approach or essentially compromised with himself when he sought out the middle ground. Democrats in the House were initially pretty unconcerned with listening to any legitimate Republican concerns, or with compromising … they had the majority, why would they compromise? Compromise and collaboration are signs of weakness after all … ineffective and inessential distractions that make you less likely to be victorious.
The goal isn’t to solve the health care problem. The problem is to use the debate over health care to destroy the other side. Someone serious about solving problems would have been happy with the Court’s decision because a framework for helping fix our medical system had been left in place. The focus would not be on who won or lost. It would not be on gloating or trying to deny credit. The focus would be on how to alter and add to the new framework in the manner that most fits with one’s approach to fixing the problems facing American and improving America’s future prospects. The focus would be on solving problems. Unfortunately, that’s not where the focus is now. And that is nothing to celebrate.