Politics and other awkward stuff

When A Shining City — Goes Dark.

Image courtesy of drnadig, iStock Photo

America seems to have lost its way.  At the very least, it forgot its way to the fuse box. Once a beacon for democracy, the last years of batshit crazy political insanity has cause a giant power outage. Suddenly, keeping the lights on in that iconic city on the hill is in serious question.

The last years have dimmed a lot of America’s radiance. Do we shine in our ability to keep our people safe? Nope. In healthcare, we place 170th in infant mortality, spend twice than most developed nations in medical care yet have fewer doctors and fewer hospital beds per capita. We place 125th among nations in literacy, and have the 81st highest murder rate, including the most guns anywhere! We’re number one in debt, in GNP, defense spending, and the economy — but only if you count the illustrious 1%.

“In my mind, it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.” Ronald Reagan’s vision of America.

Maybe we were once less than shiny but at least we were uber idealistic. We loved the IDEA that we were better than we are, special, entitled. President Reagan stated that ‘the Shining City Upon a Hill’ was a utopia, divinely bestowed by God on the worthy. The term has been used by presidents and politicians ever since to illustrate their vision of America. We’ve been led to believe that we are on a special mission from God to spread democracy throughout the world, which might be a good plan – if we could practice and hold on to it ourselves.

Though Ronald Reagan didn’t invent the lofty phrase, he did make good use of it. The poetic vision of a radiant city actually originated in a 17th century Puritan sermon by early Boston governor, John Winthrop. His concept was not to taunt Europe with America’s greatness’ but as a na-na-na-nana refute to Catholics about Protestantism. Who knew? To them, it was less a place than an idea regarding Christianity, which morphed through the decades into ethnic exclusion, enslavement and social superiority.

“For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people will be upon us.”  John Winthrop, Governor of Boston

Protectors of early democracy were also complicit their carelessness of it. Early settlers were no strangers to slavery, religious intolerance or their own conspiracies. (Do the Salem Witch Trials ring a bell?) Even as we told ourselves we believed the best in each other, we decimated the original American peoples, elbowing them to the side as we made this place our own. And of course we needed help building it, so we shipped in cargos of humans from another continent, excusing our travesty through generations as right and just. Many still do.

Continue reading “When A Shining City — Goes Dark.”
Politics and other awkward stuff

Make America . . .

“America is back”. That was the opening line of a recent commercial, and all I could think was “Really? Where was it?”.

As far as I can tell, America hasn’t taken a trip anywhere, though it has meandered a bit. These last few years, the poor country has been pulled in so many directions, it must feel a little like Gumby. With only days left before the mid-term elections, I have to wonder if America is trying to hide until the worst is over. But then, what is the worst? We’ve certainly seen a whole lot of bad behavior, that’s for sure. If America was a kid, it would have been sent to its room for days. But then, it’s not one kid – it’s millions and where do you send them when they’ve been busy setting little fires everywhere? I’d send them to the voting booth.

America belongs to EVERYONE. Yup, sorry to break it to anyone who thinks only the anointed few get to lay claim, but that’s the truth. Of course, the original inhabitants found out the hard way when new guys (English refugees otherwise known as Pilgrims) pulled up, grabbed the land and all THEY got was a tee shirt and nifty reservations in the middle of nowhere. Didn’t they welcome the Pilgrim dudes, give them corn pudding and help them survive first winters? Sure, but who’s counting. We still make those cheery construction paper feathers to honor them on Thanksgiving, so it’s all good, right?

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.

Mark Twain

For 241 years, America’s been stepping away, and coming back. We’ve been to war, to the moon and to the polls. We’ve raised the flag, our voices, our fists, and our leaders. We’ve seen the best and the worst of times. We have been and are a great, beautiful land with fierce spirit and big hearts. We fled a monarchy, started a republic, became a democracy and today waffle between them, with some resurgent populism and nationalism thrown in. (we know how well THAT worked out!) Continue reading “Make America . . .”