Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What’s great about America - That's a statement, not a question!

I’m a cynic, I admit it. If there’s a cynical comment to be made, you can count on it coming out of my mouth. It’s probably one of the reasons I describe myself as a “flailing Buddhist.” I just can’t let stupid stuff go by without some kind of observation.

There is a belief in organizational development circles that a weakness is actually a strength taken to the extreme.

For example, flexibility is considered by itself to be a strength. But if one is too flexible they run the risk of being thought of as unable to take a stand, wishy-washy. And that’s not a good thing in business.

If that theory holds true, then a cynic is simply an idealist who has been disappointed one time too many. Or constantly.

I recite this preamble because an acquaintance of mine asked for a post on What’s Great about America! (This came about after reading my post about bias. I wonder if they’re related?) Here’s my shot. For your reading convenience, my cynical take is included after each section, parenthetically and in red italics so you can skip it if you’d rather focus on nothing but the positive. (It’s just one more service I provide!)

What’s great about America
America the Beautiful!

Land: America encompasses 3,794,083 square miles including water (lakes, ponds, rivers) and the beautiful views, abundant resources, vast plains, sturdy mountain ranges, and verdant valleys make it a wonderland that is the envy of much of the rest of the world. It’s no wonder that Americans dream big; our homeland almost commands us to do so!

(As I write this, our new President has signed an executive order reinstating the XL and Dakota pipeline access projects to completion. So, some of that pristine stuff is now at risk but no sense worrying about that now. He’s also chosen, for head of the EPA, a person who has filed suit dozens of times against the organization he’ll head. How convenient. Nothing to see here, folks!)

Freedom: Our 241-year-old experiment in democracy continues on its journey, with the taste of freedom in every citizen’s mouth. The First Amendment to our Constitution guarantees each of us that:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Never was this more in evidence than on January 21, 2017 when enormous crowds of peaceful protesters (majority of females) gathered in cities across the land to stand up for the rights of everyone: women, LGBTQ, poor, Black, Latino, immigrants all were called out and told they would be taken care of. In solidarity, marches took place in over 500 cities and countries around the world with the same message.

(Our new President, has taken to Twitter to explain to everyone that his Inauguration crowd was bigger and, besides, didn’t we just have an election? Why didn’t these people vote? He later stated that demonstrations were the backbone of democracy, or something like that.  My feeling is, if you’re going to have an argument with women about size, you better bring the goods and the numbers show he didn’t. He’s also been in a running battle, and these are his words, with “mainstream media” because he says they are purveyors of fake news. Really? I guess that’s just because he ran for President and no one likes him or something. Perhaps he’s confusing the editorial pages with the news pages. The administration has shut down various government agency’s ability to tweet, announce, or otherwise communicate with the outside as they “develop their policies to match the new administrations goals.” Some people are saying, first step to autocracy. I prefer, “first step to a brave new world.” Pun intended!)

Wealth: The American economy has been the largest on earth for decades, only recently being challenged for the top spot by China in the last few years. Our capitalist system has allowed average people to become millionaires and billionaires starting businesses, developing real estate. Some became millionaires by working their way up the corporate ladder from the mail room to the board room! A recent example of entrepreneurism at its best is shown in the film The Founder, a story about Ray Kroc who discovered and improved a small burger joint, turning it
Cabinet members will see you now!
into a conglomerate and becoming the CEO of McDonalds; but only after failing in business several times right into middle age before finally becoming successful.

(How wealthy are some people? Well, according to sources, the wealthiest 80 Americans have more wealth than the bottom half of the population combined. Some very wealthy people are being tapped for Cabinet positions. I’m hoping the new Administration’s main goal will be to teach everyone else how they did it, themselves. As opposed to continuing to make it easier for them and their ilk to gain more wealth. Right?)

Equality: Our Constitution guarantees every American many rights, including equality in the eyes of the law. This is the cornerstone of democracy.

(Of course, that’s taken a bunch of amendments to get here, and the Equal Rights Amendment – guaranteeing the rights of women – never was passed. Some say, what’s the big deal? But women still only earn 80% of men, on average, in the same position; blacks earn 74.6% of whites in the same position. Some of my female friends tell me they have to work twice as hard and have twice the performance to be considered the same as men. Fortunately, they say, that’s not that hard.)

Healthcare: Everyone in America has access to healthcare in this country. Truly. State laws require hospitals to provide healthcare to anyone that comes into their emergency rooms, even those who are unable to pay. So, everyone has healthcare available to them. The Affordable Care Act was passed in an effort to provide the opportunity for more people to have health insurance so that they wouldn’t go to an emergency unit for care and, thus, reduce the overall cost of healthcare. According to a nonpartisan research team study, that has occurred and the cost curve has been bent down. In other words, the act was at least partly successful in it’s goal.

(And still, as I write this, our new President has taken the time to sign an executive order to begin to repeal, not tweak, repeal this law. Because this law has “killed jobs” (sorry, it hasn’t) because it’s not providing coverage (sorry, that’s false) that you couldn’t “keep your doctor” (that’s true in some instances). What is particularly bothersome to me is that no one is pointing out that healthcare costs continue to rise and are at the point of being unsustainable – 19% of the US GDP. The ACA was an attempt to slow that down and was only marginally effective. What we really need is a complete overhaul of our system – kind a moonshot project – and I don’t see this Administration and Congress having the skills/desire/motivation to pull it off; at least not as long as lobbyists keep filling their pockets. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong!)

Education: Our public education system is designed to provide an education to all kids. A number of acts over the years have worked to make the system better and better. No Child Left Behind, passed under President Bush (43) was designed to provide quality education to those who might otherwise be unable to get one due to being in the poorest part of the population. Our colleges and universities are outstanding and many are among the finest in the world.

Psst. Her pockets are Yuge!
(No Child Left Behind, while being noble in its goal, has turned out to promote mediocrity thus reducing the quality of education. It seems to me that many states, in their efforts to improve public education, have done the opposite by working to standardize so many things that good students are slowed down. They’ve also focused almost entirely on the notion that education is an expense rather than an investment and that has eroded the motivation for people to go into public school teaching as salaries remain stagnant and teachers are made to teach to tests instead of helping people learn. But I’m sure our new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, will fix all this. During her confirmation hearing she failed to answer a number of questions correctly, some that are taught in first year teaching courses. Hell, I know the answers and I’m a trainer! She was confirmed on a historic tie-breaking vote by VP Mike Pence on the strength of: She had donated over $200 million to GOP legislators. I’m sure this will all work out, just fine!)

Opportunity: In America, every child that is born in this country can grow up and become President, one day!

(And now that we’ve proven this aphorism to be true, can we never do this again?!?!?!?!?!?!?)

In closing, I can say that America is already great. Now, can we agree as a people not to eff it up from here? Please?