America, A Nation Taken for Granted
July 4th 2020 was very different from those that preceded it. Not only were celebrations tapered due to constraints and effects of a global pandemic, but also the spirit of patriotism itself to be an American were tapered due to divisions, tensions and unrests following the killing of George Floyd a few weeks ago. As a black immigrant who loves America, I am aghast at the escalating anti-Americanism sentiments taking place that has not only been counter productive to solve the issues surrounding Mr. Floyd’s death but also has demeaned and mischaracterize the American Idea itself. Opportunities to address issues which led to Mr. Floyd's death have been grossly hijacked to use as an excuse to enable a hateful movement against Americas founding, it's founding fathers and the American principles. Too many are ungrateful to nation that has given so much to them and others due to its founding principles.
Years ago before I immigrated to America I was always curious how so many people of all races and creed often with little or nothing could come here and do so well. However in this supposedly 'racist' country I was still seeing many people who were not white do exceedingly well and given opportunities to prosper. I sought to look into the two opposing parallels with an open mind and rely on the ambition instilled in me by my parents to guide me no matter what.
When I lived in the South Bronx years ago, I observed high rates of crime and heard shootings often. There were many social assistance programs for housing and jobs but also some that incentivized people not to work or have a two parent in the home. Many able bodied people just tended to hang around all day and night. I had a minimum wage job at a pet store in a Westchester suburb and took the bus and train to get there. On that commute I observed other people mostly immigrants who would rise early, who were not predominately white and would seek work as laborers with contractors. Many of these people who I eventually knew, now own their own contractor businesses from the skills they had the ambition to learn years ago. In any bustling towns the many names on businesses and commercial vehicles indicate they came from another country, but these names are testaments to the promise of the American idea that rewards ambition with prosperity.
Minority communities have a leadership deficit and need more leaders who can simultaneously empower ambition rather than stoke resentments, and who can support law and order while enforcing equal justice for all. One of the exceptional nature of America is that the imperfect men acknowledged that they and anyone in leadership would never be perfect and all knowing so they diligently designed principles and a system with checks and balances to seek a more perfect union.
Many would like to destroy and erase elements and monuments that represent Americas founding and what it means to be an American but not only is America’s Patriotism worth fighting for , so too the ideals that made America itself. As an immigrant who sought to discover 'why' America years ago I am astounded on the growing number of America who not only take their country for granted but also the movement that resents and seek to undermine the exceptionalism of America being founded on principles of liberty and self government, not creed or ancestral backgrounds. Too often today the critique of 18th century founders are conflated with the timeless ideals they envisioned for the country that led to the prosperity that Americans and the rest of the world benefit from and is still relevant.
An often-overlooked line in Martin Luther King Jr. famous speech reads, “When the architects of our Great Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” In another famous speech by Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg address, he spoke of America as “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The founding principles and ideas of liberty and prosperity were not only genius but also a constant observation by America’s founders in the Federalist Papers in the conversation on determining the limits on the powers of those who seek it in government. They noted, ‘Man is not infallible and thus subject to fault’. The American experiment of ideas and founding documents to implement them sought to address and balance two profound human traits, the trait to have unlimited power and also the human trait to have liberty.
When incidents like the killing of George Floyd occur, those who hate America's founding are quick to blame the founding principles. The problem is not the principles and ideas but a lack of people to effectively enforce them. When many today shun or try to mischaracterize patriotism to the founding ideas and documents as racist and outdated, they should be reminded that the truths of the founding ideas of prosperity and liberty for all still hold, but it is also constrained by the ever present truth cautioned by the founders about the selfish motives of the ‘not infallible’ who seek increasing power and control over others. The urge to control others also involves intimating free speech and thought that undermines constructive debates. The acts destruction and mob violence in the last few weeks while undermining law and order is a dangerous indication of what is to come. Very soon those who stay silent about it will realize the results of taking America for granted, unless they start doing something about it.