The American Character in the Twenty-First Century

American-Flag1As the primary season heats up and Super Tuesday (03-01-2016) about two weeks away, it will start to unfurl as who competes in November to be our forty-fifth president.  With the primary in my home state of Connecticut after Super Tuesday (04-26-2016) I am not endorsing any candidate at this time; I am simply making a pecking order and it will depend on who is still in the race after Super Tuesday.  I want to share some thoughts on the process of selecting.

You are probably as sick of the mud-slinging and dirty politics that rules the headlines, both traditional and online.  I want you to know that dirty politics has been part of our political and sociopolitical landscape since the very beginning; even George Washington had to deal with it.  As someone with memories of the low-tech world (before the Internet and smart phones), one big difference I see is that it was easier to get a more positive persona of one or more candidates when there were certain details that were not made public.  This was very important because I have said many times, we are a republic or representative democracy, we do not vote bills into laws, we elect (hire) people to do it for us.  Therefore the WHO is far more important than the WHAT.  A person’s politics is one of millions of threads that make up the total person and it is more important to like the total person than just his or her political views.  One of the reasons for the great divide among the two major political parties and everyday people who have liberal or conservative views is that the Internet and social media expose every pimple on every candidate making it virtually impossible to pick a candidate on character alone.  This forces us to choose inside the fortresses of our political ideology and/or political party affiliation.  For this reason, today’s voters seldom vote across party lines and many unaffiliated voters sit it out.

Norman Vincent Peale once wrote a book called The American Character.  Using his power of positive thinking wisdom, he describes through a series of anecdotes the altruistic nature of the American people (in his time) as being courageous, compassionate, and generous, without regard to the hero’s and heroine’s own safety, committed in the spirit of helping others.  On the first Republican Town Hall in South Carolina last Wednesday (02-24-2016) retired neurosurgeon and presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson had a Norman Vincent Peale moment and talked about helping your neighbor, using an example of a man falling out of his apple tree picking apples and his next door neighbor helping him up.  And that it is the responsibility of the people, not the government.  I think a candidate would need to say a little more than that to get my vote, but that is the way the American people used to be; and if only [we] can all be like that again.  I am a big fan of limited government and believe this country could not only be restored to its lofty status by going this direction, but can be better than ever; but it cannot happen with the general attitudes and personalities of twenty-first century Americans who put higher value on their electronic devices than on their fellow man or woman.  You can create a Shagri-La of limited government and limitless potential, but in order for it to sustain, it has to be occupied with the type of people of whom Mr. Peale was referring.

In John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address on 01-20-1961, the famous Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country speech, Kennedy creates a vision for what direction America needs to go.  As far as the vision is concerned, he finalizes it with these words:

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

I consider this a major component in the American character of the past that I would like to see resurrected.  It is a secondary form of the ultimate sacrifice but it has nothing to do with dying for your county in a war against your enemies, rather living for your country in a community with your family, friends, and comrades.  The willingness to begin an endeavor and work on it knowing the job will not be finished in [your] lifetime.  Treating, life, success, and the goodness of mankind as a journey, not a destination; this is the American character I speak of that is consistent with Mr. Peale’s persona.  This form of self-sacrifice is in some ways harder than being a soldier in combat, because [you] have to go on living; living in the chaotic world [you] have created—a commitment to live the rest of your life under a banner reading PARDON OUR DUST—UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

In the preamble of our very Constitution, we make references of the common defense and the general welfare.  Understand, the Constitution was not written by socialists and new-dealists who support the Welfare State.  The Constitution came to be after the Convention of States to replace the failed Articles of Confederation and it was influenced mainly by The Federalist Papers written by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.  In The Federalist Papers, Hamilton and Madison make reference to the compound adjective self-governing.  While Norman Vincent Peale understood no two individuals are exactly the same, all of the people he personified in The American Character [were] undoubtedly self-governing.  Since we all come into the world with a blank slate, becoming a self-governing person requires education.  With the decline and fall of the American education system over the past sixty-five years and the distractions and dependencies of portable and social media, there are not enough self-governing people to populate our limited government nirvana.  In deference to Bernie Sanders, a good person with some bad ideas, we will be forced to live in such a socialist state and government will have no choice but to be big and growing if we cannot produce self-governing people to populate our limited government world.  And the fact that we cannot afford big government, it is not surprise America is a great nation on the decline.

We need to limit government to resurrect America as the land of opportunity but we do have to make a massive investment in education to ensure we raise generation after generation of self-governing people to populate America as it should be.  This election is a referendum on the presidency, also Congress who has the power to make the laws consistent with the vision of the president elected by the people and for the people, now expanded to the judicial branch with the death of Justice Scalia and the people’s choice for president most-likely determining the balance of the court for a generation albeit I do believe President Obama should appoint since he still has eleven months to go, but it is far deeper than that.  This election is a referendum on the American character.  Are we going to define ourselves as indentured servants to a national government too large to escape omnipotence and diminish the power of the people, or are we going to define ourselves and the self-governing and self-sacrificing people the late of whom the late Norman Vincent Peale has waxed the persona?  We are on the precipice.  I ask every American, man, woman, and child, if filling [your] bucket we call the mind is totally [your] choosing, how do [you] want it filled?  Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask not what you can do for your country.  Ask who you are; and then ask what you can do for you and donate to your country!  Pardon my dust!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: