Remember it was the French diplomat and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville who first extolled the vibrancy of America’s civil society in his two-volume Democracy in America (1835 and 1840). Forty-six years later the French people affirmed de Tocqueville when they gifted America with the Statue of Liberty (dedicated October 28, 1886).
In other words, it wasn’t us blowing our own horn, rather an outsider who saw in us something new and laudatory within the family of nations.
Historically, what made America so appealing is the same thing that made Babe Ruth so appealing. We were big and strong, but fun-loving, good-natured, and out-going, too, and maybe, endearingly, a little naive. Though originally blind to the damage done by our slave-owning past and roughshod Manifest Destiny striving, overall, America was a smile and a clap on the back, a nation less cynical than the older European societies that preceded us. And within that spirit was a readiness to lend a hand to those in need, another reflexive, Ruthian trait.
We didn’t play up our size or our might. Instead, we were ‘aw-shucks’ humble in our strength, embracing in our openness, and generous in our spirit.
What happened to that America?
Now we brag incessantly about how great we are – “the greatest country in the history of the world!” We wrap ourselves in the flag and conduct military fly-overs at every turn, ostentatiously reveling in our armaments while simultaneously holding one hand over our heart as we pat ourselves on the back with the other like a double-jointed massage therapist.
Coming from where we began and how the world came to know and respect us, it is more than a little unseemly. Instead of Uncle Sam, we have morphed into Biff Tannen from the movie Back To The Future.
When America declared her independence, the founders felt the need to explain to the world our separation from England. They did so because our rational would undergird the moral standard to which the United States would strive, while deterring other nations from backing Britain in her pushback.
Thus, the final clause of the Declaration’s introduction read “…a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
“A decent respect to the opinions of mankind” was among the founding concerns of this nation. Now it’s “America First”.
There has always been a difference in how old and new money display their wealth. Old money hides behind long driveways and simple facades. The new always presents more showily. With her Puritan past, America carried herself with understated confidence as she grew in size – “walk softly and carry a big stick”, said Teddy Roosevelt – knowing that with our declaration of equality, and goal of perfecting our union, we carried more than just an industrial might, but a moral strength, too. We did not ascribe to or require the Nazi or North Korean jack-booted, goose-stepping swagger.
Give me back that America of the big heart and open hand. Such attributes didn’t make us suckers, they made us saviors.
Remember what else de Tocqueville said of this nation: “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
America is given that ability every four years on the first Tuesday in November. With a record of staggering incivility, disunity, and fear-mongering before us, we can see what a monumental error we made in November 2016. Though made in good faith, that error represented an honest attempt to put an end to the dynastic cycle of two families that had overseen the American government since 1980, the Bushes and the Clintons. But as some could readily anticipate, the bombastic cure we elected was much worst than the ill he was meant to heal (OUR PRESIDENTIAL APPRENTICE)
And so again on November 3, 2020, we will again be presented with an opportunity to correct what has become arguably the most corrosive agency ever allowed within the halls of power and near the founding spirit of this unique nation. Once again we are drawn to de Tocqueville for guidance.
“Society is endangered not by the profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.”
Vote, my friends, as if your nation’s fate depended on it because it very well may.