Make AmericaNS Great Again
Isn’t that what all this fuss is really about? Think on it, Beloved. How can America be great again without its greatest assets being great again? Answer: It can’t. But Americans can be great again if we’ll invest in our greatest assets — our people. People will then make America great again, but without We the People being great again, America will never be great again. That’s a sobering thought.
The New York Times published a lovely aggregate of Opinion writers’ selections of the single comment they deemed most important from readers this year. Here’s one:
“‘Let’s Talk About “Personal Responsibility:’ A Year of Tough Conversations in the Comments.
Opinion writers reflect on what readers had to say in 2020.” “We took a look at some of our most popular and moving pieces of 2020 and asked the authors to pick just one comment that resonated with them (not an easy task, given the quality of your contributions) and respond to it.”
“‘By all means, let’s talk about “personal responsibility”’ — Nicholas Kristof.”
“Carol in Berkeley, Calif., on “Who Killed the Knapp Family?” (Jan. 9): “So long as poverty is seen as an individual or cultural failing (e.g. the culture of poverty which was linked to race, even though the evidence was nonexistent) we will not treat this with the seriousness it deserves. Yes, every individual has responsibility for their lives. But pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps, after we take away not only your boots but your capacity to buy or make boots is unfair and is also emblematic of how poverty is understood. We need to understand that collectively this costs us all — both morally and financially. The solution is collective. It is jobs that pay a living wage, it is opportunities for upward mobility for oneself and one’s children, it is training for these jobs and it is a real safety net. Will some people still be poor? Will they self destruct? Of course. But the numbers will be far smaller. And we will be far richer as a society.”
“Nick [responds]: This observation by Carol struck me as exactly right. One of America’s mistakes over the last half century was to go too far down the track of extolling ‘personal responsibility’ and haranguing people to lift themselves up by their bootstraps. When an infant in three counties in the United States has a shorter life expectancy than an infant in Bangladesh, that’s not because the American newborn is making ‘bad choices;’ it’s because we as a country are. So by all means, let’s talk about ‘personal responsibility’ — it’s real — but also about our collective responsibility to help America’s children and give them a fighting chance to succeed.”
As a metaphysician, I am obliged to expand Nick’s arena to helping America’s people, not just children, because, you see, children have parents, and parents have parents, and they all have siblings, and friends, and neighborhoods, and towns, and cities, and states, and a nation — I daresay, a world — that has been sorely neglected on a great many fronts. And not just at home or in Bangladesh.
It’s time to invest heavily in Americans, Beloved. All Americans, across the board. Every single one. If we don’t, we’re on a path whose end we will not wish to see or suffer.
Emergency Room physicians Benjamin Thomas and Monique Smith address suspicion of the coronavirus vaccine in the Black Community. They write, “Medicine has broken the trust of the Black community. Now it must work hard to earn it back. Otherwise, Black people will be further marginalized by our health care system and further victimized by this pandemic.”
These words go for brown people, too, and poor people, and addicted people, and broken people, and it’s worse for them than for the likes of nice, white lady me. “While there is no single antidote for the systemically racist and discriminatory health care structures and policies in this country, we can make it our goal that every Black household will have a meaningful conversation with someone they trust about vaccination.”
The medical system — meant to serve the people it allegedly cares for — needs a complete overhaul, a serious investment in naming its biases and prejudices, new education to address these inequities, a complete and total removal from the profit motive, as well as universal healthcare for all Americans.
From that same Opinion aggregation — here is Paul Krugman’s favorite comment. “‘As if we have nothing to learn from the rest of the world’ — Paul Krugman”
Holly in Canada on “The Cult of Selfishness Is Killing America” (July 27): “Here’s the thing: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, not an American pandemic, so the U.S. has the world to look to for examples on how to best control this virus if necessary. In Canada, we were given guidance based on science, advancing stages based on rates of infection in each province so we could safely reopen our economy. The difference is trust, trust that our governments, both federal and provincial, will protect us over petty politics. We have a duty to one another and we are reminded of that duty by our leaders. If you are not willing to do what it takes to protect your entire community, not just your tribe, then you are destined to fail.”
“Paul[‘s answer]: This gets at one of my enduring gripes about the way we discuss policy in America — namely, as if we have nothing to learn from the rest of the world. It’s not just the presumption of American superiority — I still run into people who are sure that we have the world’s highest life expectancy, when we actually die a lot younger than people in other rich countries. It’s the way we don’t learn from policy successes abroad. It’s not just the pandemic: Every other advanced country has universal health care, yet we talk as if that’s an unattainable goal. These days, nations are the laboratories of democracy, but we’re too insular to learn from their experience.”
It’s time to get over that insularity for keeps, Beloved. This is one planet. We’re all responsible for her well-being and we’re all affected by her well-being. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if we don’t invest in addressing climate change, none of the other issues we invest in will matter a damn.
Years ago, I used to give motivational speeches, mostly about how to create peace in the workplace. One of the things that people commented on the most was that I drew a picture of people in which we all want the same things. Think on it. Don’t we?
Clean air, clean water, warming or cooling where necessary, a safe place to live, clothing someone to love, to be loved, maybe kids if we’re so called, meaningful work, a car that goes when we turn the key, and, often, at certain times of the month … chocolate. The observation always got a laugh, but it’s true. It’s one way we’re all irrevocably connected.
Okay, maybe we want slight variations on the list, but still, what people want and need is remarkably similar from one to the other. It’s not hard to compile the list of what. What is hard is to agree on the paths to its attainment. This is where we and our, of late, ridiculous politicians get gridlocked. It’s really rather silly when you think of it.
What if we all, all, agreed on an agenda that would invest in the people of America? I’ve been thinking about Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’ To-Do List, and I wouldn’t wish it on The Grinch. It’s terrifying, and at the same time, ridiculously simple: Invest in our people having what they need. Isn’t that what FDR did with the New Deal to resolve the Depression of the 1920s and 1930s? He did, and … so did we.
Invest in our people.
That’s it. That’s the entire agenda.
Marianne Williamson was part of an article yesterday on 2020, and the things people quit. She herself quit the presidential race. She wrote, “I have long felt that people in the transformational and higher consciousness, religious and spiritual communities are the last people who should be standing on the sidelines in regard to the great economic, political and social questions of our day.” Me, too. That’s why I write these essays. If spirituality doesn’t intersect with culture, and change it, what is its purpose?
“Because if you know what changes one heart, you’re the one who has a clue as to what would change the world.”
One heart. One American heart — that, being changed, reaches out to the next heart, and the next, knowing that we could all be on the same page if we wanted to be. Anu Garg’s A THOUGHT FOR TODAY was a quote from British novelist and short story writer L.P. Hartley (30th December 1895–1972). Mr. Hartley wrote, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
I would submit to you, Beloved, as this year of 2020 comes to a close that the future is a foreign country as well. We can do things differently there as well.
Making America great again is an appeal to an ideology. We’ve had enough ideology to last us all three lifetimes.
What we both need and can have is ideas, ideas that invest in every American. When we do that … well, it’s no mistake that American ends in can, is it?
We can, Beloved. We always can — if we will.
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her essays address the intersection between spirituality and culture. Find out more at www.susancorso.com