Friday, June 3, 2016

The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

The candidates notwithstanding, this election season has been long and ugly. For all the reasons you may think, but also one that may not immediately come to mind. One candidate proclaims to make "America Great Again!" but all candidates narratives follow the same thread: that something is wrong with America that needs fixing and they are the right person to fix it.

The problem with this narrative is the idea that America is inherently broken, an idea that I don't believe in. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America." Yes, it was former-President Bill Clinton who said and I invoke that quote here now not to be political or display a preference for one candidate over another, only to summon the optimism in it.

Essayist Fareed Zakaria may have said it best in a recent piece in The Washington Post:

"But on one issue he (a leading presidential candidate) has been utterly consistent: “This country is a hellhole. We are going down fast.” This notion of a country in decline is at the heart of his campaign's message — to make America great again.

In fact, it is increasingly clear that the United States has in recent years reinforced its position as the world’s leading economic, technological, military and political power. The country dominates virtually all leading industries — from social networks to mobile telephony to nano- and biotechnology — like never before. It has transformed itself into an energy superpower — the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas — while also moving to the cutting edge of the green-technology revolution. And it is demographically vibrant, while all its major economic peers (Japan, Europe and even China) face certain demographic decline."

As presidential candidates deconstruct the United States and tell us how broken every piece of the engine is and how they will overhaul it, the United States remains an ideal many still hold up. Our values and beliefs, our freedoms, many things we take for granted on a day to day basis, are the envy of many around the world.

We live in a country that gives us so little too worry about that we worry about whether or not applying sunscreen to children really does more harm than good.

The recent photo in the New York Times of a young couple on a train caught my eye. They could have been any young American couple on a train anywhere in the U.S.:

They seemed happy. I have seen many couples just like them on my commute to or from work. But I read on and learned more about their story (here).

They aren't an American couple. Yet. In brief, they are a couple from Afghanistan from different ethnic tribes forced to elope and flee their country, because their families threatened to kill them if they were married.

At its heart, their's is a love story.

The fact that they sought to go to America, where they could live and love freely is no accident. As we talk about everything that is wrong with America and how we are going to fix it, let's also remember the things that are right with a America.

Thank you.

I return you now to your regularly-scheduled programming of cute (if not crazy) kids!