What Makes A Nation Great — Part III

In Parts I & II of this project, I spent a great deal of time pointing out the things that, in my view, keep the United States from being ‘great’.  In truth, the word ‘great’ is a superlative that sets my teeth on edge anyway, but it’s something we should always strive for.  If we strive for greatness, perhaps we can at least achieve ‘goodness’. (Links to Part I and Part II)

Make no mistake … despite its many flaws, some potentially fatal, there are good things happening in this nation, there are things that should give us hope for the future.  I didn’t want to end this project without pointing those out too.

A nation is only as good as the people who inhabit it, and we have, in this nation, millions of good people.  Every Wednesday, I write about some of those good people.  Most all of the people I know in this country are caring, kind, compassionate people who would literally give you the shirt off their back if you needed it.

Teachers in this nation are underpaid, overworked, and often expected to pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets.  Yet, I personally know a number of teachers who are dedicated in a way that no other professionals I know of are.  I know teachers who have taken a student in for a weekend when there was an illness in the student’s family.  Almost every teacher I know or have known personally go the extra mile every single day, and for little or no recognition … just because they believe that educating our young people is the most important job in the world.

I know people who spend every weekend working in homeless shelters and food pantries to help those less fortunate than us.  I know still others who give a portion of every paycheck to worthy causes that help people … not politicians, but people in need.  During this ongoing and devastating pandemic, there are many people who are bringing food and supplies to elderly friends & neighbors, checking on them to make sure they are okay and don’t need anything.

And let us not forget those on the ‘front lines’, the healthcare workers who are risking their own lives every day, working long hours, to help those who are sick, whether with coronavirus or other ailments.  These people have sacrificed sleep, meals, time with family, and their own health to take care of people they don’t even know.

We have countless volunteer organizations manned by people who help with everything imaginable, from child care to feeding the poor to rescuing animals to visiting the sick & elderly to picking up other people’s trash on beaches and along highways, to name just a few.  The majority of people in this country really do care about other people, about animals, about the environment.

Yes, there are many people who are self-serving in this country, who eschew the diversity and would turn the country into one comprised entirely of white Christians with women taking a backseat as they once did, but those people don’t deserve mention here.  To me, the ‘good people doing good things’ are a large part of what is good in this nation.  But there is more, as well.

One of the items on the list in Part I that I think contributes to what is good in this nation is the diversity.  Just on my own street, we have families from Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Nigeria.  Knowing them has enriched my life.  I’ve learned things about the Middle East that you don’t get from history books.  I’ve tried new foods – some I loved, others not so much.  I’ve made new friends who have broadened my horizons, expanded my world view.  Immigrants have given so much to this nation, asking in return only a safe place to live and the opportunity to take care of their families.

There are signs of hope for the nation.  I think that the majority of people are waking up to what is wrong and understanding that, as a nation, we have taken a wrong path somewhere along the line.  I think people are ready and willing to make the changes we need to start the process of re-building the nation.  The divisiveness we see today cannot continue, and I do think most people realize that it is counter-productive.  I think people are finally ready to stand up against the systemic racism that has always existed here.  The overall response to the murder of George Floyd, as well as other recent episodes of police brutality against black people, is encouraging.  While I despise the violence some of the protests have spawned, I do like the fact that people are finally becoming aware and determined to demand change from our police and government.

The first steps in repairing what is broken in this country must be to realize that our government is not serving us, but rather is self-serving.  We must demand some changes in campaign finance rules, in term limits, and in transparency in government.  We must educate ourselves and our youth in how our government is supposed to work vs how it is actually working, then we must do whatever is necessary to demand change.  We must remind the people in Washington that it is We the People to whom they owe their allegiance, not the NRA, not the person in the Oval Office, and not the big corporations.  We must hold them accountable for every vote they make, for every dime of our money they spend, and for the things they don’t do, as well.  We must do this now, while we still have the right to peaceful protest, while we still have the right to vote people into or out of office, and while we still have a free press to keep us informed.  If we don’t, I see those rights slipping away.

We must learn to set aside our petty differences and focus on the big picture.  Think of two people building a house together.  We agree that I will do the right side of the house and you will do the left side.  If we don’t communicate and compromise, I build my walls 8 feet high, but you build yours 9 feet.  I paint my half yellow, you paint your half pink.  What we end up with is a mess that neither of us can nor want to live in.  This is what the partisan divide is doing to this nation … leaving us with a mess that we cannot continue to live in.  We must learn to put aside the petty differences and work together to resolve the bigger problems, such as racism, affordable education and health care for all, helping those who need help, narrowing the income gap, and more.  And how can we do this?

We cannot do it by pointing guns at one another.  We cannot do it by screaming and yelling such that our message is lost in the noise.  We can only do it by talking and listening, then seeking common ground for compromise.  We must stop trying to impose our own ideas on everyone else and work on the bigger picture.  What is the bigger picture, you ask?  Ensuring that this nation works for everyone, not just some.  Stepping up to the plate and being a part of the global community.  Working to reverse global warming, to clean up the environment, to find alternatives for plastics, working on ensuring the safety of not just this nation, but of the entire globe.  I could go on, but you get the picture.  On a scale of 1-100, with 100 being truly great, I would rank the U.S. as it stands today in the 30% range.  We can do better … the question is, will we?

Maya-Angelou

48 thoughts on “What Makes A Nation Great — Part III

  1. Jill, this series is well done. Thanks. When people in leadership positions fail to lead, many Americans usually step up. Right now, the US president is not only ignoring major problems – like COVID-19, racial injustice, climate change, integrity of the office and our laws – he is making them worse.

    The president is making himself smaller and his verbiage of questionable value and, even ignorable, on more than a few occasions. Yet, many Americans are stepping up. This president has been successfully sued to stop more than a few questionable actions. Some judges have been critical in their rulings saying the president’s team did not do enough homework or was capricious.

    With that said, we need the political so-called leaders to do their jobs and not focus on keeping their jobs. Trying to solve problems is a far better effort than telling us who is to blame for not so doing. Also, oversight roles must be protected and even heightened, when alleged and overt abuse occurs.

    We need to remember the tribe is the United States. So, we need to remind these so-called leaders when they lose focus, as they often do. We have problems including the major crises of the day. So, we need to focus on these and not let so-called leaders pretend they are not happen. If the president, Senatotrs, Congresspeople and state legislators cannot add value, they need to stop talking. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Keith! You’re right in all you say, and I’m often so overwhelmed by the number of problems, the number of poor decisions coming out of Washington, that I don’t know which is the most important or most critical. The thing that disturbs me most, though, is how divided the people of this nation are. There are no longer any attempts to compromise, to listen to each other … it’s simply “us” vs “them”, and Trump only adds fuel to the fire, divides us further with his hateful rhetoric and name-calling, as do the right-wing media outlets. How can we fix this if we cannot even talk to each other?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tough to talk and be heard and points considered when people with different opinions are always intolerant bigots – blasphemers, really – deserving of being cancelled and who are are being categorized as an Enemy of the People if they don’t go along with the right (religious) narrative. This is being done across the political spectrum, so convinced are people that America is either great or terrible, that Americans with significantly contrasting opinions are more of an enemy than real enemies. The Trump administration is the first Woke administration in that reality is dismissed if it doesn’t agree with the narrative (much like scientific findings contrary to certain religious beliefs and claims have the scientists equivalently vilified and their expertise equivalently dismissed not as wrong but as evil). There is no difference I think in tactics between the awful administration currently in power and an administration that follows the lead of the Twitter horde. That’s why we have no great principled leadership emerging but an entire divided country of (religious) narrative followers who assume the problem is out there somewhere and belonging to someone else rather than in here (taps the head).

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  2. Well said. I do think the murder of George Floyd will result in much good and a definite lessening of the fear the blacks in this nation experience every time they see a squad car. There are definitely movements afoot! Let’s hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Hugh! I agree that if we can only maintain the momentum, not let Floyd’s death be pushed into the background in light of the pandemic and pending election, it will bring about change. I do hope … have my fingers permanently crossed!

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      • MLK also said he wished for a world that will one day live in a nation where his children will not be judged by the color
        of their skin but by the content of their character. How we can get there as a people – to living that very dream – by importing equity quotas based on racial makeup, and measuring it’s success by how much or little racial disparity there is, is truly one of today’s Great Mysteries. I do not see this policy and this dream as being compatible; rather, I see them as in direct contrast. You can’t have one with the other so we have to choose. And I think we’re making the wrong choice when we confuse equity with equality and diversity with disparity.

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  3. Let’s say you step forward 200 years or backwards 200 and look at a list of great nations, the Great Powers. There would be very few. The United States would be on that list… in both directions. But why? What is ‘it’ about the US that elevates it to this status?

    Well, its birth shook the world and changed it forever… even if the Great Powers of the time didn’t really grasp it. Certainly, France learned very quickly but the rest of the Western world soon caught on… some faster than others, some requiring a complete rebuild after going to war with it. What is it about the US that reshaped the world, launched its central importance in influence and reach and every other nation one had to take into consideration for polices foreign and domestic? If that’s not an element of greatness, then the definition need some rework.

    Sure there are all kinds of ways the country can do better and it has been doing so since its inception. There’s a reason why people from around the world see the US as something not around the 30% mark but usually at or close to the top of their list for immigrating. Again, the reasons for this are much more important than the current ways the country falls short. But confusing falling short with not being great enough is not a fair metric in the comparison in the hall of nations. Focusing on current shortcomings is also a shortsighted means. The long haul is what matters, the direction of change over time is what matters, the improvement over time is what matters, the influence and global reach over time in all kinds of programs and through all kinds of global events and economic variances is what matters in this comparison.

    The current and widespread belief that the US is a force for harm, a force for evil, and force that is need of removal, of tearing it down and rebuilding is not based on anything other than a contrary narrative and is almost unrelated to reality. No other country in the world has been such a force as the US for the betterment of humanity in spite of its contribution to harm. And if any country can make adjustments and alter course to global effect and leadership and to the potential betterment of every individual who live on it, it is the US. It is great nation with great responsibility and great hope for its continued leadership. But not if we keep teaching the next generation that it is an awful place, a great disappointment, a place far too many people suffer. That narrative is seen as beyond ludicrous by people from most other countries who truly suffer, who have little hope, who not only do not have their rights respected but their lives, who clearly see what so many of us spoiled little fishies who swim in the water of our enlightenment inheritance are too close to see: a hard-won liberty worth defending… against enemies foreign AND domestic. And by domestic that can include anyone who fails to honor their oath to defend the principles of the Constitution.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sorry but i respectfully disagree, US as a superpower will go the way of the former Soviet Union. 2-3 years tops, and i’m being generous. It’s a virtual certainty that we will lose our world’s reserve currency status, and our budget + trade deficit will explode due to the Fed’s runaway printing.
      As you can see i’m not very enthusiastic about the US’ future as we are displaying all the telltale signs of collapse. Civil unrest, cultural deterioration, massive gov’t and corporate corruption, RACISM, Gestapo police force, prison industrial complex, poisoning of our food, water & air etc etc.
      LOL, u’v mentioned “No other country in the world has been such a force as the US for the betterment of humanity in spite of its contribution to harm”, that’s why we have military bases in nearly every country all over the world, endless wars and starting more coloured revolutions every day… that’s our wasted tax $ at work… for the betterment of humanity?? If i may be blunt, the world would be a much better place without the US for sure.
      Most notably the rapid withering away of our Constitutional rights, way too many examples to note. I wish i had ur rosy glasses, but i know too much. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your concerns about the economy noted, let me just say that reality does not support your conclusion about the effect the US has had on the world, in that the by almost every metric we are living in a world that is getting better and better and the US has played a key role in almost every one of them.

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        • Well yes and no, the wealthy and politically connected are living MUCH better, the middle class and poor not so much.
          Due to the CV million of businesses are forced to shut down by gov’t mandate, many will not reopen… doesn’t contribute to quality of life. Well at least Walmart, Amazon and the big box stores are doing well? What would everybody else do for a living?
          This is just my opinion, overall i think the US is doing worse by every metric than the rest of the world. It just depends on what perspective ur looking from.
          I’m a US citizen, soon to be ex-pat, way happier living in Italy or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Best of luck.

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    • Stepping back 200 years as you suggest, we were a nation of slaveholders. No nation that allows people to own other people can be considered ‘great’, or even humane. Stepping forward 200 years, I’m not sure that humans will still exist, given our inattention to the climate crisis. But even if they do, I don’t believe the United States as it is today can withstand another 200 years. I see it becoming fractured, being divided into a series of smaller countries, each with their own separate governments.

      People around the world no longer see the U.S. as a bright, shining light beckoning, for we have lost most of our standing in the world. With a course reversal in such things as immigration, an end to racism, and attention to climate change, we may regain our standing in the international community, but today it is far lower than it was a decade ago.

      Can we become better? Sure. Whether we will or not remains to be seen. Given the divisiveness among our citizenry, I have serious doubts. But greatness is not something that any country achieves, at least not for long. Finland and Sweden come close, but most other nations fall short.

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          • Global effect? Reshaping the world? New systems of government? Massive infrastructure? New technologies? Warfare? Cultural impact – language spread, music, artistic forms, architecture? Settlement pattern changes? These are just a small sample of why a country might be considered great in any fair comparison and not just the welfare of the common person but its historical and global impact.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. “Ensuring that the nation works for everyone….” What a wonderful concept, huh Jill? So understated, yet it really is what needs fixing more than anything else in this country. Your zip code should not determine where or how you end up in life. We have lots of work to do. Our politicians MUST answer to us….not just the rich and powerful. First things first: No more Trump!!!!

    Liked by 4 people

    • To us, it is a no-brainer, but to some … well, they simply don’t care about any but themselves. You’re right that the first step is ousting Trump, but thereafter there is still much work to do, for the elements who sent him to Washington will be looking for another to replace him in 2024 … bet on it.

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  5. Amen David. You may not be a church goer but you are truly Christian. Now when are you going to immigrate and help Jill and me get elected President and whatever position the Prez needs the other one in?

    A great ending Jill. May I suggest reposting on a regular basis to remind us all of the things we should have been doing all along? And again, expand this into a book. Don’t waste all of this great research by letting it hang here and wither into prune shapes.

    As for the remark about the immigrants, my ancestors came to this country from Germany, Austria, Russia, England, Ireland and Scotland. The only people who don’t claim immigrant status are the Native Americans, and the first whites to immigrate here came only to rob them of their land in order to increase the wealth of the whites. My own Irish ancestors lived thru that in their country, becoming slaves to the outsiders who robbed them of their land and made them the serfs/slaves who worked the land and gave all the profit to the usurpers who even tried to rob them of their religion? And since this country was founded on the need for religious freedom, why are the Christian majority now the minority when it comes to that freedom?

    Sorry, I keep thinking back to the days when Christmas, a celebration of the birth of a baby all those centuries ago was a time when we could outwardly manifest our religion with a manger scene on the courthouse lawn. Today we can’t put a manger anyplace in public for fear of offending people of another religion. Even devil worshippers have more freedom to display their satanic symbols while we are barely allowed to wear a Christian symbol and speak of it in public. One of my friends lost his job as a mall Santa a few years ago when he showed his cross to a little girl who asked about it. We’ve lost freedom of religion for the most part now but not many notice if it’s a Christian who is the loser.

    I think I’m tired now. I know I’m hungry. Stopped up sinuses in our pollen glutted Ohio Valley and finally ready to take a sinus tablet that will put me to sleep. This is a great post and should be reposted every few months lest we forget again. Thank you!

    Big hugs!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much, dear Angie!!! Your support boosts my sagging spirit and makes me smile … no small achievement today! Your idea to repost this isn’t bad … I’m thinking perhaps in the two days immediately before the election in November! I definitely don’t want it to decompose into prune shapes!

      I fully agree about the immigrants … my own ancestors came here from Wales, Spain, Germany, and parts unknown! I often quote the words on the base of the Statue of Liberty … “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

      Go rest, my friend … eat first! Yes, the Ohio River is known to be the most polluted in the nation! We have had ‘air quality alerts’ every day this week so far. Hugs ‘n love! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      • We get alerts every day about flooding, pollen, air quality, and lately the water from our artesian wells is filled with every carcinogen known to man. And then they continue to inform us that “There is no danger involved in drinking our water. It’s still in the upper 5 percentile of potable water, safe to drink and use for washing dishes and cooking, as long as you boil it at least 5 minutes before using.” The irony is that I’ve heard some of the same remarks about the water in the stores that we buy as “safe’. I wonder whose well water is being pumped into those bottles and what stuff is in that! The whole world is dying and taking us all with it.

        After giving the thought of immigrants settling this country, it occurred to me that our Native Americans also immigrated across the land bridge that once connected Alaska and Russia. At that time this was new ground with no life except that of the flora that I’ve heard was dropped by birds expanding their own territory. And I wonder how many people realize that all of us were descended from Northern Africa, kinda noted for the dark pigment in the skin? From that small area the earth was populated and spread out to new areas as each one became overcrowded and cramped the spirits of the explorers. Granted most people have never cared about things like that, but I love going back as close to the beginning as possible. Now I’m digressing.

        It would be very good to repost these just before the election, and as many of your followers as possible should also repost on our own pages so it will gain world wide momentum. In fact, I think I’m going to do that very thing, beginning today so I’ll be able to get to it more easily, and do a repost during the last week of October. Great idea!
        Hugs!
        H

        Liked by 1 person

        • Several years ago, when I was homeschooling my granddaughter, we spent a couple of weeks studying such things as water quality, and after all the reading and research I did preparing those lessons, I switched to nothing but bottled ‘Spring’ water, not ‘Drinking’ water. Ice Mountain is fairly known as being the purest and best quality, so when I buy bottled water, that is what I buy. Another good option is a distiller, which literally boils out any and all chemicals and contaminants, but it takes up a bit of space, too.

          You’ve enlightened me on some things here … I don’t think I ever knew there was a land bridge from Russia to Alaska! I’ve long been fascinated by history, but typically more modern history, but now you’ve piqued my curiosity. Thanks!!!

          I did see that you had re-blogged this … thank you so much! Yes, I will make a note to re-post the series at the end of October when the election is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Keep well, Angie. Huge HUGS!!!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Here’s to a rime when the majority ans the minority work together at having Congress pass bills that genuinely help those that need help and introduce an ACA big enough to encompass all needs.When the medical lobby and the Insurance ones aren’t able to buy congress before the votes
    .A time when everyone’s first thought is for someone less better off than themselves and you know they’ll give help.
    A time when every politician is free and able to vote with their conscience.
    A time where Christians look on blacks as brothers and sisters and not as people to call the police on or to try and force out of your neighbourhood. Though I don’t believe in the Church’ some oof it’s teachings are quite appprropriate when followed. Like Love your neighbour.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Excellent analogy with the house, and a good first step, for which many have been calling for years: “changes in campaign finance rules, in term limits, and in transparency in government. ”
    Thank you for this article.
    Shira

    Liked by 3 people

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