Saturday, August 12, 2017
...than what we are now.
I watched a clip of Jeff Daniels in the opening scene of The Newsroom the other day. It made a deep impression upon me. In the clip a college sophomore asks a panel, of which Daniels' character is a part, to describe what they think makes America great. The other two members of the panel respond "Diversity and Opportunity," and "Freedom and freedom and let's keep it that way."
Then Daniels' character goes off.
I won't try to quote the entire monologue here because it's quite long and Daniels' delivery is amazing. Pull up the clip on Youtube. It will be just over eight minutes long. I know. That's a long Youtube clip, but it's worth the time to watch the full scene. The scene is amazing. Enough so that I want to start watching the show that it came from.
Basically, the gist of the monologue is that America isn't great. We used to be great.
That idea really struck me. Part of what disturbed me about Trump's rather unsettling presidential campaign was his rallying cry of, "Make America great again!" My knee-jerk reaction to hearing that for the first time was, "What do you mean, 'again?' We ARE great." However, the more I think on it, the more I realize that America is not great, just as Daniels says in the Newsroom clip. What I found disturbing about Trump's campaign slogan was that I don't want any part of an America that he would consider great. But that's another subject entirely.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that America is resting on its laurels. As a country we're like the 40-year-old former jock whose highest point in life was throwing a game-winning touchdown in high school. And now all he does is relive his glory days.
The story of the United States is quite amazing. We went from being an English colony to being the country that was a world-leader. In less than 200 years. That's pretty incredible. The United States was where everyone wanted to live.
A book I once read had a thought about leadership that went more or less like this: "When you hold your light up for others to follow it reveals your own weaknesses and failings." This revelation gives the true leader a chance to improve. Seeing what's wrong is the first step to correcting the problem.
The U.S., for all of our vaunted declarations of "Freedom" and "Justice for all" has had problems with slavery and inequality. Problems that are ongoing. It sometimes seems that a lot of us don't want to share our freedom and justice.
As the Newsroom clip points out the U.S. isn't great. Especially in those areas that are easily quantified and compared with others. You know, literacy, math skills, infant mortality. While we are lacking in many, many areas, I feel and hope that America can be great again.
If we are to become great again, it will be in the same manner we did so before. Our people. We need people to become great by being honestly and truly good people. People who work hard. Care for others. Make decisions because they are the right thing to do, no because it gives them the greatest advantage.
America can be great. To do so will require us to become great. We need to be better than we are.
Time to start working on that.