So, we just had a big holiday celebration, here in The States. It was the 4TH OF MOTHER-FUCKIN’ JULY!
And that’s the sum total of the amount I could get worked up about it – all caps, 5 words – and now I need a nap.
But, I’m fighting the sweet embrace of oblivion to tap out a few words about ‘Merica, because holidays, even the fun ones, are supposed to be a time for reflection. (Not the whole time, of course. We need a bit o’ partyin’ as well. We’re only human.)
And there is a bucketload of things to reflect on in the midst of our drinking and blowin’ shit up.
What does it mean to be an American?
What does patriotism look like?
How can I/ you/ they be good citizens?
Should one use lighter fluid to start a charcoal grill?
You know, that kind of thing.
For me, it hasn’t been any of those things. (No, not even the lighter fluid. Get a goddamn chimney starter for fek’s sake!)
I’ve been thinking about: what are our American Virtues?
(Before you get weird about that word, virtue just means strength.)
So, I suppose one could think of it as: What makes America Strong?
Yes, I get that there will be no end of idiots spouting off about “freedom” or the military or guns, or whatever. But they’re probably drunk, and definitely foolish. So, we’re going to ignore them for now and try to hash this out like concerned adults. Well, mostly…
You see, I’m not sure I know anymore.
In fact, I’m not sure I ever did.
I have some thoughts, but, admittedly, they tend to be naturalistic analogies. That is to say, I am not prepared to present evidence in the case. It’s just observations, and if strict empiricism worked we wouldn’t need the scientific method.
Let’s start with one I’m fairly certain of:
America is, currently at least, just about the most diverse country on the planet. We have more and more varied cultures and ideas per square foot in this nation than anywhere else on the face of the Earth. (If you have counterexamples, please leave them in the comments.)
Why do I think this is one of the things that make America strong?
First, the analogy. Genetic diversity.
We know, from studying the world, that genetic diversity makes a group of organisms stronger. And conversely, we know that genetic homogeneity tends to spell a species’ downfall. Genetic diversity allows an organism to adapt. The most adaptable becomes the most survivable.
Our cultural diversity serves the same function for the body politic.
Greater diversity is synonymous with greater adaptability and survival.
For us, it is a diversity of ideas, of minds, of perspectives that drives our ability to adapt and overcome.
So, an example: Nicola Tesla.
An immigrant. Also a genius. (If you think Tesla is just an expensive electric car, and don’t know about the man, you should go find out. I’ll wait. It’s worth it.)
Tesla worked first with, then in competition against Thomas Eddison.
Eddison’s idea to run power across the country was Direct Current (DC). It’s fairly powerful but can not travel long distances.
Tesla’s idea was Alternating Current (AC). It was marginally less powerful but could travel longer distances.
There was a whole thing about it. An elephant was electrocuted. Not good in general.
But the outcome of this competition was that you now have AC electricity in your house, and pretty much every house connected to the grid.
Why does that matter?
For one, it’s cheaper power to produce.
For two, the fact that AC can travel longer distances means that you don’t have to have a power plant in your neighborhood. (about 55% of them still burn coal to make electricity, so, be grateful you’re not living in that post-industrial hellscape.)
Anyways, Tesla, an immigrant, that’s who we have to thank for that innovation.
And there are plenty of other stories of immigrants helping to make America better, stronger.
Check this list out, but don’t stop there.
As a country, we used to believe that immigrants were the brightest, toughest, most resourceful people, to have gotten here from their home countries. We used to welcome them because we knew that adding the best, brightest, and most resilient would increase our capacity for those things.
If you look at contemporary immigrants, you find the same thing: resourcefulness, tenacity, intelligence, drive.
You’ll see it if you look.
You can’t trust the accounts of others. I’m not even suggesting you trust my accounting of the matter.
But you look, with your own two eyes, and you’ll see.
And if diversity is one of the things that make America strong, maybe we should start electing people who know and accept that fact and make it the driving motivation behind their policies.
They think they’re representing us, or leading us.
Let’s show them where we want to go.
Anyways, this is probably just the beginning of this exploration. Certainly, there exist more than one American Virtue.
It’s just that I need time to ponder it, and also, naps.
Leave a comment if you can think of any others. I do like exploring options.
Even if you can’t come up with something off the top of your head, if you’re an American, please take the time to think about it.
There are few things that could be of greater benefit to you and your country.
I’ll be thinking about it too…
…but first, a nap.
Until next time…