America has flaws, but it’s far more worthy of respect than Donald Trump would have us believe.
We do too little to preserve the planet from overheating. Too many people are poor. Education needs to be improved. The tax code is unnecessarily complicated and favors the rich. Medical care costs too much and often gets inferior results. Hateful prejudice toward various ethnic groups and gays and the disabled is strong. There is far too much gun violence. Congress has been hamstrung by angry obstructionists who believe that working together and compromising even a little is to be avoided, no matter the cost. Over and over, we execute innocent people. Gerrymandering skews the way we the people are represented in Congress. State governments continue to invent new ways to make it difficult for minorities and the poor to vote. We are starkly, harmfully, frighteningly divided.
But those shameful truths are not the whole story of America.
We survive. We manage. Ordinary people work hard to make the country better, to nudge us a little closer to the dream of perfect democracy and to foster the common good.
The number of “environmentalists” seems to be growing and climate-change deniers diminishing. We’re beginning to drive electric cars. We’re paying more attention to water use. One by one, ordinary people are starting to do their part to take care of the earth we live on: composting, recycling, installing solar.
We are becoming a more inclusive society, a society that allows people to be who they are without paying a price when that identity does not conform to some old norm. Gay, straight, both, neither, trans – it’s all acceptable today in a way that it wasn’t just a short time ago. Sexism, xenophobia, racism is becoming steadily more impermissible.
Right here in Saranac Lake (and countless other towns and cities) the more fortunate offer aid and comfort to those in need. These good Americans help the homeless to find shelter, succor the sick and dying, teach the illiterate to read, take care of stray animals, and constantly find ways to be good neighbors and good citizens.
Shortly before Election Day, I spent a couple of weeks of traveling. I covered several thousand miles, and in doing so, I looked everywhere for the America Donald Trump lives in. I couldn’t find it.
Here’s what I did encounter:
≤A reliable forecast from the National Weather Service
A good highway to the airport
≤TSA, FAA, and federal flight controllers who kept me safe
≤A new kind of family; two white men and their young African-American sons
≤Smoking prohibition in every public place
≤People going about their business on bicycles
≤Some of the most accomplished architecture, engineering, and art the world has ever known
≤Safe food in restaurants
Signs urging water conservation
≤A rental camper van that got many more miles per gallon than one would have a few years ago ≤Security in knowing I had Medicare and my wife had Obamacare
≤My Social Security income, which helped to make the vacation possible.
≤Construction projects, thriving businesses, new cars for sale by the thousand
≤Myriad ethnic and racial groups, for the most part living together in comity
≤Natural beauty being well cared for.
We are such a strong country that demagogues can run for office — even the presidency. They’re entitled to a voice, even if they peddle hatred, division, cruelty, and nonsense. They can even stir mobs to scream, “Lock her up” about an honorable public servant who has never been charged with a crime.
Like more than half of those who voted, I was shocked and dismayed when Trump won. Not so much because of the legislative and executive awfulness that is to come. Somehow, we’ll get through that. What bothers me most is that so many of us voted for a man who is demonstrably devoid of moral principles, defined by selfishness and mentally unbalanced. Those things should have disqualified him as absolutely as being too young or foreign born.
We are a better county than that.