I love the USA. One of the best parts of growing up in it was the feeling that one could create solutions to problems. Create, not just do what had been done before. Create, see a problem from a new perspective and do something new in response. Create, possibly jury-rigging a solution, sometimes with a sense of humor.
For example, the solution to an ICBM that turned itself on and was automatically going through the sequence to launch: the missile was stopped by parking a huge and heavy armored vehicle on the cap to the ICBM’s underground silo. The cap would automatically withdraw just before launch. The armored vehicle would drop on top of the missile and crush its computers, killing it. This anecdote was presented on The Rachel Maddow Show in late 2016. I apologize for inaccuracies in the retelling, but I’d like to point out that it illustrates a feeling of “can do,” of willingness to think outside of boxes, that I remember from childhood.
We still have it. I believe in the USA. With this feeling of “can do,” we could have led the world in finding a way to provide health care to all citizens. We could have simply guaranteed equal pay for equal work. We could have made rock solid the right to vote. We could have found ways, ingenious, non-traditional, creative ways to do what needed to be done. We did not.
We did not, because we also have a flaw. It runs deep and is almost without a name. Some call it racism, some call it distrust of government, some call it populism. None of these names really fit, but the characteristics of the flaw are easy to recognize.
There is an assumption that education is suspect and unnecessary. There is a cynical assumption that any action by the Federal government is detrimental to freedom. There is a background prejudice against anyone not white and male. Fear of “the other” is a part of it. Disillusionment with government, and law in general, when reality and theory don’t match, is part of it. Suspicion of Science and its findings is present. Americans don’t like to be told anything. We don’t believe in the very institutions we created to do the jobs we created them for.
The founding documents of this country act like the keel of a ship. They keep us on a straight course. Since the very beginning, equality before the law, the right to life, to liberty and the pursuit of what means happiness, a free press, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble and to address the government with regard to grievances, the right to free religious practice have been the foundation of our government. These are among the principles that should guide every action of our government on the local and federal levels.
One of the definitions of the word “govern” is “to exercise a directing or restraining influence.” – Randomhouse Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. How our government is to function and how laws are to be created is laid out in the Constitution. How these laws exert a directing or restraining influence is how we shape our national life and the course of our nation’s future. This is how the institution we created does the job we created it for.
To obstruct it is to betray the very foundation of our democracy. Obstruction is the antithesis of creativity. In effect, it’s a statement of “can’t do.”
This is what blocked President Obama from achieving much that he set out to do. That he did achieve so much is a testament to his “can do” attitude, his sense of our best direction as a nation, his willingness to think creatively on our behalf. The prejudice that is “can’t do,” the belief that our foundation principles are not sufficient to direct and restrain our national course, is dangerously present. The obstructions faced by President Obama are proof that “can’t do” can erode the best efforts of our best people. The election of 2016 was further proof and we wait to see the consequences.
I love this country. Like Martin Luther King, I have a dream. I dream and believe that “can do” will overcome “can’t.”