This is not a 9/11 post.
There will be dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of posts and articles uploaded today that go over all of the details of what started out as a glorious September morning, and ended in tears and blood. Memories of where people were, what they were doing when they heard the news.
No, my post is not about 9/11. But it is about 9/12.
On the morning of September 12, I don’t care where in the United States you were, you woke up as an American. We were stunned, yes, but the outpouring of support, emotional, physical and financial, was unlike anything the US had seen since WWII. For a short period of time, we proved that when push comes to shove, we can put aside our differences and work together for a common cause. Of course, it didn’t last.
Here we are, 22 years later, and we are a nation even more divided than ever. Trust in our government, trust in science, in fact trust in any sort of “authority” is at an all-time low. Belief in conspiracy theories, on the other hand, are at an all-time high, and neither one of these bodes well for an ordered society. Add to that a congress that is so deeply divided on everything from financial to social issues that they can’t agree to move forward on even the most basic issues, and you have a right mess indeed. In fact, the divides in our country are seemingly so great that there are some in congress that have even called for a “national divorce” or threatened that another civil war is inevitable if their candidate doesn’t get elected.
I can’t tell you how much it hurts to see people on both sides of these great cracks that threaten to undermine the foundation of our democracy; issues that go far deeper than current political posturing and social agendas, as they try to pin the blame for our current problems and situations on “them.’
“Them” is always someone convenient; another country, the other political party, the current local, state or federal administration, those in a different social or economic bracket, those who have more (or less) education, and those whose difference is simply in the color of their skin, country of birth, their gender, their sexual orientation or religious affiliation (or lack thereof).
One way or another, they find someone or something to blame. That makes people feel good. It isn’t “our” fault this is happening. It is “their” fault. If it wasn’t for “them” none of this would have happened/be happening. If “they” can be eliminated, stifled, beaten, voted out, then everything will be good again.
If only it were that simple.
But you see there is no one person, place or thing that is responsible. These cracks that are threatening to undermine our democracy go far deeper than current events, social views and political stances of the day. Some go back to our colonization, some to the founding of our Republic. Others to the Civil War, FDR’s New Deal, going off the gold standard, or other points where our country divided on various views and over which, grudges are still being held.
Is there any way to fix these cracks? Is there any way to shore up our democracy’s crumbling foundations?
I am by no means an expert in political science or history, and personally I have no set of blueprints that I can present and say “see? If we just did THIS then we would be ok.” But I do know one thing, as long as we hold ourselves apart from each other, as long as we see “us” as the patriots and “them” as the root of all evil, we will get absolutely nowhere. So yes, I have no solution, but I do have a suggestion.
Maybe, just maybe, if we could bring ourselves to step back from the differences as we did on September 12th, we could find common ground that would allow us to work together for what is best for our country.
This applies not just to individual citizens, but to elected officials as well. If we can step back from focusing on our differences, and instead focus on those things that bring us together, that make us American, we might have a chance. This would mean not focusing on just for one political party’s view of what our country should be. This means not focusing on coercing others into believing and behaving as one religion’s view dictates. This means not focusing solely on increasing stock market shares or making as much money as possible for those who already have more money than they will ever be able to spend simply because they make large donations to your campaign, but instead, doing what is best for every man, woman and child that calls the United States their home.
Would it be a perfect world? Hardly. In a country as diverse as the United States it would be next to impossible to please everyone all of the time, but we could take the view that it is our responsibility, as a country, to make sure that everyone has not only the equal opportunity for success, but the fundamental basics, the tools if you will, that they will need in order to pursue success.
This would mean living wages for all jobs, even the menial ones no one wants to do. It would mean price caps on rental housing and/or housing based on percentage of income. It would mean caps on food and gas prices, investment in infrastructure and a revamping the education system. (This would include not just investing in our current public schools, but including two years at a community college level if it leads to a degree or certificate that would enable graduates to enter the workforce upon graduation. This would also mean establishing a national health care system (or expanding our current Medicare/Medicaid system) that would provide preventative and emergency healthcare to every citizen instead of having one’s health care tied to employment.
I know it sounds like a lot. And I know that there are many people who would fight most of these suggestions every step of the way. But ensuring that every citizen has the basics, a place to stay, food on the table, clothes to wear and a job that they are capable of performing for money that will actually cover their costs, would not only result in more satisfied citizens, but would unite them over their shared experiences, establish trust in those who are supposed to be representing them and not their corporate donors, and provide them with the means to improve their lives regardless of where they started.
Making these things available to each citizen would have tremendous future value for our country. Not only would the education and quality of the workforce increase, so would standards of living, and overall morale. Child poverty could be eliminated. Health and happiness indexes would improve. Instead of having to work two or three part time jobs just to get by, people would have more free time and freedom to live their life as they wish (providing that they cause no active harm to others), to believe as they wish, worship as they wish, dress how they wish and love who they will. It’s a tall order, I know. But we can do it, IF we are able to stop seeing those who do not think, believe, worship or love as we do as “other” and instead start instead, like we did on 11/12, start focusing on what we have in common; that of our humanity, and pride in being American.