Somehow this has become a seditious statement lately, but: I feel pretty good about the U.S.
Before 45.9% of you get excited and 48% get angry, let me explain.
Yes, it’s embarrassing to travel outside the U.S. and try to explain what’s going on. Yes, the idealistic view we have of what a “leader” looks like has been upended. Yes, there are specific actions that could impact the country negatively.
There’s a lot of gloom, a sense of foreboding in the air for many. For others there’s an in-your-face jubilance that befits a 0-63 high school sports team that finally wins a game. Still others have uneasily gone back into hiding, hoping to pretend the world outside doesn’t exist.
But our system is working.
Set aside the recent presidential antics and our disappointing Congressional representation for a minute, and let’s have a look.
– We’ve seen our system of checks and balances do what its supposed to. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the recent court decisions on the travel ban, the system worked exactly as it’s supposed to. Even versus some rough rhetoric and intense pressure.
– We’ve seen civic engagement like I’ve never seen in my lifetime. A few years ago, I described the U.S. to someone as a country that had settled into a sort of “angry apathy.” People were upset, but not really doing anything about it. Now people are calling their representatives in Washington, articulating their views, bringing the opinions that have been seething beneath the surface to the fore for handling. There’s an energy, open debate and level of engagement that dwarfs anything I’ve seen.
– On that note, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands, maybe a few million American voters take to the streets to loudly say “NO” to exclusionary policies, demanding our country embrace its roots as an immigrant nation.
– Journalism has recaptured its mission after being forced to look inward. Sure, there are remain many issues in the media world. Being held to account has been good for the journalist’s profession. There’s a sense of higher purpose setting in as watchdogs of democracy. Malign or praise the press, this fact is true.
– On a local level there are some incredible elected officials. For all the fuss we make over about 500 people in Washington, a town that has been broken since before it was burned 203 years ago, there are governors, mayors, state assemblies and other sub-national leaders stepping forward. That’s after all where the real governing happens.
There’s still a lot that can go wrong. That will be our fault.
The catastrophes in my lifetime – even 9/11 – have been unifying catastrophes that bring people together.
This one is different.
Our current catastrophe has nothing to do with Washington. It’s us tearing at each other, often times just for sport.
To me, we had a pretty good country before November 8. It’s still pretty good.
Structurally, we’re ok. I really believe that.
Socially, we’re not.
We don’t deserve to survive this. But we will anyway.