By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
There was a time, not so long ago, when we, the citizens of the United States of America stood for something; the world looked to us for refuge, justice, courage, for progress and for ideas that would, and did, change the world. We were a place where honesty and integrity and a good day’s work were rewarded, crime and corruption were exposed and punished, every person, regardless of race, color, creed or station in life, had equal rights, protections and responsibilities.
Every red-blooded, never-say-die American was Superman, Mickey Mouse and a Boy Scout rolled into one. Such beliefs seem foolish and naïve now.
As we approach the 4th of July, many of us are beginning to wonder.
As Alexis de Tocqueville put it “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
My premise is, not only have we ceased to be “good,” but we have lost any interest in being “good” that we might ever have had.
“Greatness” is never found in bravado, taking the easy way out, or reneging on personal, civic or international responsibilities. “Greatness” is never found in swagger, privilege or secrecy.
Our goodness, our greatness, is found where it has always been found –in defending the defenseless, opposing tyranny, and standing for something even when, or especially when, it is difficult, unpopular or expensive.
We have not always lived up to our highest ideals, but they stayed solid and true, even when we didn’t.
It never occurred to even the crassest and most cynical among us to sell our national parks, privatize our public schools and utilities and even our prisons and military expertise to the highest bidder. But now, looting our natural resources and mortgaging our children’s futures has become standard operating procedure.
Our political system has become a mockery, we have forgotten what we have always stood for, and the rest of the world, when it isn’t laughing at us, stands appalled by what we have become.
Every fringe neo-Nazi hate-group feels emboldened to harass, bully, even kill as they impose their own vigilante justice on anyone they feel doesn’t “belong.”
We have abandoned rule of law, civil order and standard legal procedure.
Our streets are not safe, our prisons are overflowing and our laws are disregarded by those in the highest offices.
But America can be great again – but not by threats, proclamations, slogans or royal edicts.
We do need to make America great again – we can oppose tyranny, not embrace it, we can live up to those grand and inspiring impulses that made us the land of the free and the home of the brave. We can refuse the call of fear, suspicion and paranoia that leads us like an irresistible siren call.
Loving one’s country means to appreciate it for what it is and recognizing that no group – or individual – has a monopoly on defining its identity. No individual – and no nation – is static. Every nation changes over time; wars take their toll, resources are depleted, industries and civilzations rise and fall, plagues, famines and natural disasters strike.
Making America great again will take hard work, courage, sacrifice and an unyielding vision for the best – not the worst – among and within us.
We have become accustomed to near-daily scandals, conflicts of interest, dismissals and resignations. But we all know that we are more – and better – than this.
To put it mildly, rage is not love and persecution and discrimination is the product of fear, never patriotism.
It might take us a while, but we will recover. As Winston Churchill put it, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”
We once had a president who could not tell a lie. Now we have a whole political class that can barely give us a clear and simple answer to an obvious question; evasions and distractions have become our standard response. Next time you see a politician being interviewed; notice the distance, even in a direct yes-or-no question, between the question and the answer.
It won’t be easy and it won’t always be understood or popular, but nothing is more important than making America truly great again, because if we are not great, nothing else really matters.
In the America I grew up in, we were always the good guys. We didn’t torture, exploit or take advantage of power or position.
We welcomed refugees and fugitives from around the world. Our Statue of Liberty was a beacon of freedom, refuge and opportunity.
We were proud of our work – and proud of work. We got things done, fixed problems and did what other nations couldn’t – or wouldn’t do.
We invested in the future and embedded in our children the idea that they would do – and be – even better.
“American exceptionalism” was not a phrase we hid behind or quoted like some Hitler-youth slogan. It was how we lived, what we did and what we expected from each other.
We didn’t fear or deride other nations, ethnicities or faiths – we defended, rescued or welcomed them to a new home.
“Liberty and justice for all” was not a hollow phrase but a reminder of who we were and what we lived – and fought for.
We have been described by many over the years as a “city on a hill” a city that drew – and welcomed – those in distress who sought freedom and refuge.
It’s time to reclaim that vision.
God Bless America and God Bless us every one.