Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Thoughts while shoveling snow

About eighteen inches of snow covers the world outside my window, like fondant or whipped cream, sculpted by the wind. I am taking my leisurely time about going out in it, because I've decided not to try to fight my way in to work today. The streets will be full of careful but stressed-out drivers, the trains will no doubt be delayed, and really, let's face it, I'm not that vital to the functioning of my office.

Yesterday was Super Tuesday, and while I am going to try not to turn this into a political discussion, I will pass on what my husband once observed: Americans (and I would add all of us) can sometimes confuse power with greatness. Being strong or flashy or successful or just plain loud or visible does not equate with being good or noble or wise or having integrity. And those qualities are the important ones. We idolize people who are wealthy and visible, like screen actors and sports figures, but perversely seem to delight in pulling down our own idols and flashing their indiscretions across the front pages. It's as if we praise the rich and famous while trying to swallow our own envy. Maybe we recognize that what they have isn't true greatness, even while we try to hold it up as being so. We want them to be heroes...because true ones are sometimes hard to find. It reminds me of my ten-month-old grandson, sucking on a lemon and crying because it doesn't taste as good as he thinks it should, but still he sucks on it, determined to make it be what he wants it to be.

Trump's campaign slogan is that he wants to make "America great again," implying that it isn't great now...but how are people defining that? Are they saying it has lost its founding principles of justice and freedom? Or are they really saying America isn't as powerful or visible or loud as it once was? What exactly do they want America to be?

If the majority chooses Trump, if he honestly reflects the prevailing mood of the country, if people are truly that angry, then that is the real issue here. I don't know all the causes of that anger, though I suspect it boils down primarily to the dichotomy between the haves and the have nots. America declares liberty and justice for all. Somewhere along the line that equality hasn't extended to economic equality, or equal opportunity for education and employment and basic things like health care and housing. "Liberty and Justice" has somehow resulted in a staggering percentage of citizens being incarcerated. Poverty and inequality lead to discontent the world over, in any country. I think people have lost their optimism for the future, and perhaps they feel their country's loss of power reflects their own.

I can't claim to know how to begin to address it. But I do know like begets like, and anger only foments more anger. America needs thoughtful leadership and effective solutions that identify and get to the heart of the problem, not posturing and slogan-slinging and ferocity. Blustering and trash-talking and flexing our muscles won't lead to greatness.

I am no longer allowed to vote in the U.S. because I've been away for too many years and don't own property there (though I still have to file my U.S. taxes, note...which could lead into a harangue about taxation without representation, but I won't indulge at the moment), but I will be watching this particular election with care. I think America is still great, always has been---but because of its founding principles, vision, and core values, not its military or financial power and influence on the world stage. Those founding principles are as vital and good today as they were in 1776. It's putting them into action that is proving difficult.

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