I know that there are people who are going to disagree with me, but I think one of the best things about America and American culture is the way that we choose to fight. We fight all the time. It’s exhausting, it’s all consuming, it’s wonderful.
Why would I love the fight? Because I think that America fights about all of the right things. I think that the methodology we use can sometimes be dirty and childish—but you know what? I kinda like that, too.
While it may seem like all of our arguments are about the small things, at its heart, the great American shouting match is always about something huge. We’re a people who are fighting about the concept of Life—who has it, who gets it, who needs it, who defines it, who gets to give it, who gets to take it away, and why? We’re a people who are fighting about the concept of love—who has it, who gets it, who needs it, who defines it, who gets theirs legitimized by government. We’re a people who love to fight about dignity and worth, merit and legacy, poverty and opulence. We are a people who love to be at odds.
And our republic would be absolutely nothing without this dynamic.
We must yell and scream about the things that are large—reducing them to the seemingly smallest little detail and then blowing them out of proportion over and over again until we’ve talked ourselves into a consensus, even if we’re using different words and sentences. We are a people who must yell it out before we hug it out. If we hug it out. And we’re perfectly fine and functional when we can’t hug it out.
I find it to be fascinating that the more intellectual among our society spend a lot of time, money and science to figure out how to convince the less intelligent among us to think the way we think. Whether it’s through religion, negative ads, pamphlets left at the door, free soda given to little children on a Saturday afternoon or a robo call from your favorite congressman, someone has thought about it. Someone studied it. Someone has degrees in how to get people to think the way they want them to.
We’re devious in that way. I understand why this is off-putting to a lot of people. It seems creepy and off that there is an entire class of people in this country who are dedicated to getting the rest of the country to think in a way that pleases them. I, on the other hand, absolutely love the passion that we show. This is how much the dialogue matters to us. This is how much passion we put into the discourse of our governance and our lives.
Now some of my more astute readers will be happy to point out that most of our citizenry who are able to do so do not participate in elections. We’re not a voting people, and that makes me sad. There are surely a lot of people out there who choose to opt out of civic responsibilities. However, even those people are still passionate about something. Even those people have sat at a kitchen table or in a website comments section or on the sidewalk with a neighbor and spoke passionately about something. And those somethings are always large in scope.
When this country, with all of its racism and bullshit, gets down and dirty with the conversation about immigration, think about what we’re essentially talking about. We’re talking about economic opportunity, human rights, legal rights, recognition, legitimization, acculturation, assimilation, educational advancement, and possible generational advancement for all people involved. Not just for the people who are crossing the border (legally and illegally, I might add, though nobody wants to talk about it), but for all of the people who are already here.
When this country, for all of its racism and bullshit, gets down and dirty with the conversation about civil rights and affirmative action, we’re talking about equally big issues: legacy, racism, history, economic opportunity, human rights, legal rights, recognition of past wrongs, acknowledgment of present challenges, anticipation of future needs, extension and expansion of opportunity, extension of voting population and thus expansion of electoral responsibility, and a renewal of civic power for historically underrepresented groups.
Look at those lists and think about it. None of those things are small things. And while sometimes I wake up and I scream at my television about how flippin’ simple all of this stuff is, it’s not, and that’s why we’re all talking about it. When the country is this big, when there are so many different people involved, and the stakes seem to be consistently high, the volume for our discourse seems to always be on “max.”
We’re also a nation that is forever thirsty. There is never a day when an American wakes up and says “today, everything is perfect.” The richest man is always thinking of the next great thing. The most powerful man is always anticipating the next problem. The poorest man is always dreaming of the next plan. The middle class man is always thinking of the next route for ascension (or the next pitfall to avoid). The reason why our republic is always on the bleeding edge of chaos and glory is because we are ever collectively and individually reaching for impossible perfection. There is no consensus on what the American Shangri-La looks like, and there should never be. If we have collectively decided that we’ve reached it, decline will surely set in.
The best part about our unquenchable thirst is that we’re striving for nobody but ourselves. We have no desire to bring glory to a king or royal family, we have no desire to conquer or succeed for the glory of a particular God, and we choose not to let any of those traditionally overarching institutions steer us toward a particular direction. For all of the desires of loud minorities, and all of the bluster of anti-government factions, we’re not a nation that allows “because I said so.” To be a satisfactory answer. Not from some queen. Not from some Pope. Not from some Supreme entity. Not even from our own damn President (as much as I love him). We bend our knees and our ambitions for no man.
For all of the majestic nature and gravitas and opulence we lend to it, our political discourse was never supposed to been a genteel thing. We were never made for tea, crumpets, and civil discourse. Indeed, if I’m not mistaken, English Parliament can be just as raucous as any evening program on Fox News during an election cycle. We’re certainly not the only ones who are a little loud about our discourse. And I recognize that it’s not for everyone, but it should be, because these shouting matches are important.
Happy Birthday to this great republic. There is no where else I’d rather live. There are certainly places that I’d like to visit, even for extended stays, but this republic is my first love and my home. There is nowhere like it, never before, not now, and probably never again.
And to all of my American readers, I hope that you have a few wonderful days to enjoy with your families. To all of my international readers, please excuse my chest thumping. I promise a regular post on Friday. I’d like to reiterate that this is all Melanie’s fault. You should totally harass her on her blog!!