Saturday Iced Mocha #19 — American First

I am American first and I wish we could all remember what it means to put our country before party or ideology. Being American doesn’t make me exceptional, doesn’t make me right, nor does it mean I’ve been granted some preferred place in the arc of human history. Hypocrisy is all around us and while modest amounts of hypocrisy are linked to the human condition, our country is going to go the wrong way if we continue to identify in such strongly partisan ways as opposed to first appreciating that it’s the diversity of opinions and more importantly, our liberties that should define us.

It’s disheartening to read the comments sections of news articles about politics. We’re treating fellow Americans like enemies. We’re not thinking critically about the sources of our information. We’re believing what we want to believe, rather than testing those beliefs. And mostly, we’re really being awful to other Americans. Not that this is a new phenomenon, as America has always had a lot of room for improvement, but I used to feel that a big part of our national pride tied into our melting pot, as well as our recognition of the need for further improvements, with significant and vocal resources dedicated to highlighting injustice and attempting to translate equal rights into equal opportunities.

Putting America first should mean that we anchor on the principles of liberty and justice for all, which requires us to remember what these principles truly mean. Putting America first means electing authentic leadership that will honor these principles and not focus on those that funded their elections or their ability to stay in office or lining their personal pocket books. Putting America first means we shouldn’t be so easily offended. Putting America first means continuing to lean on science and development to support a higher quality of life. Putting America first means thinking about the long term and aspiring to lead the world by example.

I believe both political parties have completely lost their way and are acting like politics is a zero sum game. I think we shouldn’t overlook that Donald Trump is an immoral human being, completely lacking intellectual honesty, which has been demonstrated repeatedly, well before he was in politics. I think we shouldn’t overlook that Barack Obama earned his political chops in the corrupt world of Chicago machine politics and ended up a leader who gave great lip service to social liberty, but in most ways, continued us on our paranoid path that was catalyzed with the terrorist attack of 9/11. I think we shouldn’t overlook that the Clinton’s made a fortune leveraging their connections, with a large portion of those funds coming from some fairly unsavory sources, among other indiscretions. I think we shouldn’t overlook that single-party power is not usually sustained in politics and the migration away from compromise is likely going to lead to more dramatic swings back and forth. There’s a good chance this partisanship ultimately prevents us from tackling the growing problems, many of them both complex and fairly obvious, often stemming from the rapid development of job automation, globalization and crony capitalism.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to be power hungry and moral. I’d like to hear more about political candidates that feel the responsibility to the country to be the leaders the country needs. Unfortunately with the current rhetoric, I actually believe we have the President we deserve.

I plan to spend some time thinking about and potentially writing about what I think we could be doing to truly put America first, with an emphasis on strengthening communities and evaluating the evolving labor market, as Americans have historically found significant purpose through work, a dynamic that appears to be growing more complex. I think we likely have to remove nostalgia for the good ol’ days and rather be creative as to how we approach many of the things we’ve taken for granted, including the intended goals of schools and healthcare.

Despite the skepticism evident in this musing, I’m actually optimistic the tools are available. Change is hard and isn’t felt equally across society, so it will likely take an incredibly strong will to make the sacrifices necessary to live up to putting America first. Hopefully the leadership emerges that can help us rediscover this will to work together and sacrifice without things getting too much darker first. If history is a teacher, it usually takes tremendous suffering to rally a nation in a collective fashion.

Fortunately, we’re a country blessed with an incredibly favorable set of circumstances for thriving communities, most notably our geography and our natural resources, including our climate. Our diversity, collective education and creativity should also serve us well, but we can no longer afford to stay complacent.