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’.
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?