This is America’s finest hour
If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, it’s inundated by stories about the terrible things happening in the US, about people leaving for Canada, and even about America’s demise. Doubtless there are some crazy things happening in the US, but I for one believe that the period between the election and now has been one of America’s finest times in recent memory. Think I’m crazy? Let me explain. Let’s start chronologically.
- The election. In the first week of November, the US elected without any real chaos (or bloodshed!) a new President. While that in itself is remarkable in many parts of the world, I’ll admit it’s not really earth shattering. Except in this case, despite the amount of vitriol and hatred, and the widespread feeling that the new leader was unambiguously unsuited for the job, the opposition party gracefully handed over power and the new guy took over. (While President Trump didn’t exactly say this, the phrase “don’t hate the playa, hate the game” is extremely apt in response to everyone who complains that he only won the electoral college vote).
- The women’s march. Literally the day-after, over a million women came together without needing a single unifying organizer and had their voices heard across the country and the world in a very peaceful manner. They exercised their right to protest and the country didn’t stop it in anyway.
- The Seattle verdict. Trump did what he thought was right. The State of Washington disagreed. They went to the Court, which promptly heard their story, and passed a judgement immediately. If you are American you may not appreciate truly how remarkable these series of events actually are. Every single step of the way, the system worked.
- The State Department opening the gates again. As soon as the Seattle verdict was announced, the borders were opened. Never mind that their ultimate boss was fuming mad and threating to rip everyone’s career apart, they followed the law and did their jobs. Immigrants and refugees came in and were reunited and resettled wherever they needed to be. No one tried to play holdup to give the Justice Department some time, nothing. Well done to the guys at State.
- The San Francisco verdict. There were three judges involved in upholding the stay order from Seattle, one of whom was appointed by President Bush — so in theory, a Republican pick. And all the while President Trump and his team continued to name call and question the credibility not just of the Seattle “so-called judge” but of the Judicial system as a whole. But in the end the decision was unanimous. The Judiciary held up as a autonomous body and it was an incredible moment.
From the moment President Trump got elected, the entire country has functioned exactly as it was designed. Despite the enormous pressure from the extremely biased and frankly, scary, executive AND legislative arms, the checks and balances worked like clock work. Sure, there were a lot of unpopular things that still happened (like the confirmation of the Education Secretary), but they were all well within the confines of clearly defined rules — fillibuster, tied votes broken by the Veep etc.
People in most parts of the developing world — and frankly even many parts of the “developed world” — would give a lot to have this sort of process, procedure, and checks and balance working so well, especially in the midst of what is arguably a national crisis.
Organizational theory tell us that people are OK putting up with poorer outcomes as long as they feel there was procedural justice. What people around the world want is to have a voice, for decisions to be taken by the rules, and for it to be a level playing field.
And it is my opinion that America in the last few months has shown the rest of the world its best side even in truly trying times. If this doesn’t make you a fan of America, very few other things will.
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Sidebar about me: If you’re reading this and don’t know me, I’m an Indian guy with an American wife and daughter. I’ve lived for over 10 years in the US, and another 10 in the UK and Singapore. This gives me not just a unique global perspective on these issues but also a very real vested interest in what happens in the United States.