WE BROKE AMERICA. CAN WE FIX IT?
We broke America. Yes, WE broke America. Trump didn’t break it, Obama didn’t break it, even Nixon didn’t break it (although he came close). No, we broke it.
We broke America because we forgot what it is. The first fifteen words written to create America were:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, …”
Notice something about those words. First, they say “WE the people”. Not, ME, the guy who wrote this. Not ME the liberal, ME the conservative, ME the white person, ME the black person, ME the man, ME the woman. No, it says WE the people.
Notice again, the words say, “…in order to form a more perfect Union…”. Not, MY idea of a perfect Union. Importantly, it doesn’t even call for A perfect union; it calls for a more perfect Union. A work in progress, an idea always under improvement.
We broke America when we forgot those things. We broke America when we somehow got the idea in our heads that ours was the only opinion that mattered. We broke America when we forgot that America was created by compromise, sustained by compromise, and that we all have to compromise to make it work.
Last week I was in Washington DC and I had a few free hours. So I went to the National Archives, as I often do. It is, I believe, the ‘best kept secret’ of Washington. (If you have never been there you need to go – and not just to see the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. The Public Vaults and regular Exhibitions are amazing. But, I digress.) This time I spent a little more time than I had in the past looking at some of the draft documents on display that show what changes in wording took place to create the foundational documents of America. It was fascinating and moving to see how much was re-written and re-worded in order to get the Constitution and Bill of Rights approved. People from both sides of the discussion came together and came to agreement on a framework that didn’t create anyone’s perfect union, but rather created a more perfect union.
We broke America when we forgot how that works. We broke America when our idea of a democratic system became secret one-party dominance of the writing of major legislation and then ramming it through Congress with no input or opportunity for collaboration with the opposition party. And I don’t mean just in the new tax legislation, although it is the latest example. The reality is that both parties did it. America was broken by Democrats and Republicans; WE broke America.
And don’t think it was just Congress or the Presidents who broke America. No, WE broke America.
We the people of the United States broke America when we decided that reality TV was more important than turnout for an election. We broke America when we decided that the anonymous news on social media was more credible than real journalism and reporting. We broke America when the Politics of Rage replaced the Politics of Reason.
Yes, we ALL broke America. And now we ALL have to fix it. Can WE do it?