Ask any non-American for one word to describe us. You’ll get a lot of different answers, for sure, but there is one that stands out for me. I’ve asked this of a lot of people from many different nations and there is one word which came up more often than most.
Americans, as a people, have few limits. We honestly believe that if you put your mind to it you can achieve anything at all. More importantly, we don’t have any problems talking about those dreams – or many other details about our lives. This doesn’t happen in a lot of other cultures, and it is one of our greatest strengths.
Like all great strengths, as we play to it very hard it can also become a terrible weakness.
“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. … Let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and of hate.”
– Gerald R. Ford, “Remarks Upon Taking the Oath of Office as President”
Something happened to our nation in 1974. It was more than Watergate and the disgrace of President Nixon. Years later, Jimmy Carter famously called it “malaise” – a feeling of unease that is hard to pin down. As we discussed in People’s Economics it shows up as a turning point in the economy, too.
Primarily it’s been a crisis of spirit and identity. Who are we? What are we doing?
The natural end to this crisis may be at hand. Like an addict on a 43 year bender, rock bottom might come from the Watergate script pitched as a pointless remake. At first I wanted to call it Nixon on steroids, but this is Nixon on meth. How bad can it get?
April 23 was the 35th birthday of the Conch Republic. It was an important day because once it turns middle aged it can start lying about its age. Lying is an important part of the story because a well told lie is the heart of any legend.
You may not have heard of the Conch Republic, the Independent Florida Keys. To some people, that’s just as well. But the story needs to be told because it is a tale of lust, greed, power, and … well, actually, it’s just a lot of fun. You can get a lot further with a good gag than you can by being a jerk. And so it begins.
Rejection of the “mainstream” is an important part of the polarization and radicalization of America. Socially and politically, movements on the left, right, and whatever else there is measure their stands by how far outside the establishment they are.
For all the bluster, it’s mostly nonsense. Trump supporters often rely on Obamacare, as they are learning, if not social security and other programs. Left wingers usually have jobs like anyone else. Everyone has sold out in nearly every way possible – except one. Religion and spirituality is the one place where the true mainstream is indeed slipping away, caught in an “uncanny valley” where the teachings seem too simple, too childlike, to be relevant.
And this is the one place where America is truly failing.
I like to re-use this post every St Patrick’s Day as one of my personal favorites. It has a new meaning this year, sadly.
Good people go to Heaven, but the Celts went everywhere. There isn’t a corner of the globe where you can’t find us if you look hard enough. Nations as far flung as Canada and Australia are largely Celtic in origin, and the majority of those Celts came from Ireland.
Our people have wandered the earth like almost no other, and for one day we all return home with the help of a hyphen. Many of us become Irish-Americans or Irish-Canadians on Saint Patrick’s day when any other day American or Canadian would be enough. We drink up well in pubs, cheer on the bagpipers, and think back to what our ancestors must have gone through to get us where we are.
As we revisit Barataria’s history approaching the Tenth Anniversary next month, this piece from nine years ago stands out. You can see that nothing happening now really surprises me, but it certainly does disappoint.
When I was young, I lived in a time and place where just about anything was possible. It’s amazing just how terrifying that prospect was.
Leading into the 10th Anniversary of Barataria in less than two months, I am re-running pieces from the first year. Some of these pieces, like this one, are more personal and introspective. I hope you enjoy it.
Why do we write? It’s a tough question. People put a lot of effort into blogs, but not too many of them are worth reading. Most of these will eventually cease to be amusing, stop being updated, and gradually dissolve as if there were never more than some kind of atmospheric turbulence. So why are they started in the first place?