In some respects, America reminds us of a man we knew who was hit by a train when he was 10 years old. The doctor told his parents he wouldn’t live through the night.
His mother said “Sew him up, so he’ll look good in his coffin,” and he did.
The boy woke up hungry the next morning and every morning after that for the next 80 years, living to be a ripe old age and making other people’s lives considerably better than they might have been without him.
The United States of America and its experiment in freedom and representative democracy have been pronounced dead or terminally ill with increasing regularity ever since the first shots were fired in the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, in 1775.
This happens most often when America is in serious political turmoil, but it’s hard to find a time when America wasn’t in that state — even during major wars, when it faced a far greater menace from genuine foreign enemies than from perceived domestic enemies.
Most people pretend to be on the same page at such times lest they appear to be unpatriotic. Does that mean there is no political turmoil? Of course not. It is just conducted more discreetly.
How much longer America has to live depends upon whom you ask, and that is contingent upon who is in political power and who is not.
Many people believed America was on the verge of chaos because Barack Obama was president. Many others believed there was hope for America because Barack Obama was president.
When Donald Trump was elected president on Nov. 8, 2016, the roles were reversed. Those who hoped Obama would save the country now believed that Trump would destroy it. Those who thought Obama would destroy the country were convinced that Trump would save it.
Others (hopefully, the majority) knew better all along. They realized that America was just fine and didn’t need saving.
One person can go a long way toward saving the country — as many believe President Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War — but cannot do that alone. It takes a team effort.
Likewise, the country is far too strong to be destroyed by one person.
We frequently are reminded about America’s supposed failings. It has “failed” those who are said to have “fallen through the cracks.”
Some people apparently believe they can overcome all of America’s problems at once. They can be found at presidential debates and elsewhere, and the cures they propose may even be worse than the disease. (That is to say, the operation was a success, but the patient died.)
Although America may come up short with regard to some people’s expectations, it has by no means “failed” to live up to its potential.
It is still The Land of Opportunity, and the number of people who have taken advantage of that opportunity to become successful is beyond counting. While some of us grumble about how terrible America is, others keep learning and finding ways to improve the quality of what we have.
Yes, it’s undeniable that the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” keeps expanding. It will take education, opportunity, ingenuity and incentive to improve the lot of the “have-nots.”
Taxing and otherwise dragging the “haves” down to the level of the “have-nots” removes the incentive for success. An element exists who seemingly would like to do that in the name of achieving “fairness” and “social justice,” but this approach would guarantee mediocrity, rather than equality.
America has too much mediocrity already and doesn’t need to encourage more of it. Those who would promote mediocrity by tearing down instead of building up are themselves likely to be mediocre.
Our nation was built on success. This success has at times come at great cost, human and otherwise, but remember that the reward we get for failure is the same as the cost we pay for it: nothing.
Problems remain, but we are more willing than ever to recognize that they exist and seek to resolve them.
America is an ongoing success story. It is getting better and has the potential to become even greater.
Millions of people want to flee their homelands to come to America because they know it will give them a chance for a better life, and millions of them have found that success here.
This dream hasn’t changed since the first colonists arrived at Jamestown in what’s now Virginia in hopes of finding rich mineral deposits and a passage to east India.
What Woodrow Wilson said during his presidential campaign in 1912 remains true: “America lives in the heart of every man everywhere who wishes to find a region where he will be free to work out his destiny as he chooses.”
Happy birthday, America! We’re 243 years old and counting!