The United States of America is imperfect. It has been since its founding 247 years ago. The people of this nation have been hypocritical, violent, wishy-washy, independent, rebellious, susceptible to conspiracies and flattery, and collectively suffering from cognizant dissonance.
An insidious doctrine of hate and bigotry has long tangled roots beneath the surface. Freedoms, along with common sense, seem to be rolled back in capitals and courthouses. Greed and power try to influence our behavior. There are areas where we continue to overachieve and many where we have embarrassingly underachieved. We get riled up but take no action. We do things for reasons that defy logic.
We can not opt-out. We can not run away. We can not continue to sweep a multitude of issues under the rug or kick even more cans down the road. There is opportunity here, albeit easier to access for some more than others. There is caring and hope if you look for it, not in the doe eyes of latent potential, but in those who are battle scared, filled with stubborn persistence and resolve. Sometimes cringe, sometimes heroic—those who dare, try, and do.
There are fissures in our foundations, and wood rot in our attics. We overspend and underinvest. Many do not celebrate, for they are still not free, not recognized, not respected, and not treated with any dignity. Who can blame them?
In this nation, as with most, there is good and bad; there is arrogance and empathy, insight and dogma. There are places of significant progress and areas of tremendous regression. We don’t have the patience for change to be a game of inches, nor the emotional capacity to make leaps measured in miles. Nor can we, nor should we stop. Give up—retreat with apathy and shrugs.
We’re also friendly, outgoing, brash, enthusiastic, optimistic, and, when we have to be, innovative. Be it a melting pot or a mixed salad, we have, since its inception, a population of diverse opinions, experiences, and thoughts, which is a tremendously positive asset that we often fumble because of fear, ignorance, and hate.
It is a vast and great nation; pick your cause, pick your passion, and pick yourself up and out of your doldrums and make a small part of it better. Worry less about preserving our rugged individualism and more about our capacity for compassion.
Much like an individual, the American spirit changes over time as new priorities replace yesterday’s dreams. The specific focus may differ, but the essence, the spirit, remains. We are imperfect. Always have been. Always will be. That does not mean we stop trying.