There are many different opinions on why America is a better place to live and work than anywhere else. Some of us are disillusioned and don’t believe there is anything better about it. Opinions can be sliced up and down the income, gender, and color scales. The kinder life has been, the more likely you probably are to think that this is the best place on earth.
American Ideals and Values
Do America’s core values still matter? Are there ideals we believe in strongly enough to die for? From equality to fairness to freedom of religion, has our government fostered those values and democratic ideals, or is it undermining what makes this country great?
America’s values are not about the battle between liberals and conservatives. They are not about how the Federal Government spends our money, either, because the Founding Fathers would never have imagined or endorsed the bureaucratic monstrosity we have created in Washington. Equal opportunity, freedom and liberty, limited government, and individual rights were never meant to be turned into excuses to make the government bigger and extend its control. How and why did that change?
Our fundamental political beliefs don’t end at America’s borders. We have a bad habit of extending our ideals and values to people who have no frame of reference with which to understand them and to governments that only survive because they oppose concepts like individualism, liberty, and equality. Nowhere has this been more apparent than our endorsement of the failed Arab Spring and continued insistence that nation-building can bring democracy to the Middle East.
Closer to home, the surge of South American and Mexican nationals at our Southwest border that threatens to become a summer tradition creates another fundamental conflict in our values: does our duty to non-citizens supersede our duty to protect the safety and tax dollars of our people?
2016 brought an ugly twist to America’s democratic values. This Republican Party staple was dealt a tremendous blow by the power struggle over the GOP presidential nomination. Party elite tried to subordinate the will of the people to the will of the party. The backstabbing failed and presumptive nominee Donald Trump became the conservative pick for president.
Now Trump is in the White House. The party is in disarray over what to do about their promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with something that is not only better, but reflects the values that elected a Republican to the presidency. Time will tell whether the GOP can bring this to a conclusion that is better for all Americans, or whether they will opt to resurrect their pre-convention hypocrisy.
There is more to American values than Washington politics. Flagrant disrespect for the nation, most recently by professional athletes protesting during the playing of the national anthem, shows how believing propaganda spread by groups such as Black Lives Matter can undermine our values and poison our fundamental belief in the goodness of this country.
The ideals and values category includes posts on America’s place in the world, religious freedom, the war between political ideologies, and what it means to be an American. Do we elect our president and representatives in Congress so they can dictate what we should believe, or is their job to do as little as possible, keep things running, and let the people decide what values to cherish?
UPDATE April 9, 2017: the values equation changed with the shift of power from Obama to Trump. Our values have already been put to the test with the president’s enhanced travel restrictions. Last week brought a cruise missile strike against a Syrian air force base.
How far are we willing to go to stop humanitarian outrages against citizens of other countries? Other than symbolic impact the missiles are not going to stop Assad from further atrocities. The ball is in Congress’s court if we plan to step up military intervention. Do our values demand that we do more?
Get out your dictionary and look up the meaning of bigotry. Intolerance, not race or religion, is what bigotry is all about. There is nothing in the definition to imply that liberal politics makes intolerance acceptable.
How many signs have been displayed by anti-Trump protesters demonstrating against bigotry? Democratic dissidents are so fixated on despising everything about the president that they are blind to their own bigoted hypocrisy.
Too often something you want takes a big piece out of you when you get it, like a cute stray dog that sinks its teeth into your hand the moment you offer it a snack. Trump’s plans to repeal the “no stumping from the pulpit” Johnson Amendment runs a big risk of doing exactly that.
Johnson Amendment repeal: did Trump think this one through?
If the crowd of demonstrators at O’Hare Airport last Saturday really wanted to demonstrate against something serious they should have gone into the city. The handful of travelers1 who fell under the net of President Trump’s heightened security restrictions couldn’t compete with the 17 shootings that had already taken place in Chicago since Friday.2 That’s what happens when politics chooses our moral high ground.
Here we go again, arguing over torture. President Trump has been in office less than a week and he has already revived the debate over whether torture is wrong. The real question is why right or wrong matters. Why announce limits on how far the U.S. is willing to go? That’s what Obama did.
Ask yourself: what responsible leader would tell the world we are placing restrictions on what it takes to shut down those looking to kill, maim, and yes, torture our people?
I am not surprised that Jimmy Carter is attending the inauguration. Whether or not you agree with his politics it’s hard to argue that the man has integrity. He is also wise enough to know that turning his back on America’s leader is a foolish thing to do. This isn’t the time to show contempt for President Trump.
One of the dubious achievements Obama took credit for in his farewell speech in Chicago was the wealthy paying a fairer share of taxes. There was a joke hiding in that boast. We all know that Democrats will never stop demanding a larger fair share of higher incomes, so “fairer” means absolutely nothing. The good news is that all the accomplishments inflicted upon us can be reversed if we change the meaning of fair share.
While a new year stares us in the face an unanswered question won’t go away. Can the one nation we used to take pride in come back together, or did we finally go too far? Can we trade unity for the insecurities politicians used to split us up?
Americans bumped elbows in Times Square, Chicago, and other big cities to ring in 2017 and probably didn’t stop to wonder who the person next to them voted for.