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The Heart and Soul of America

Heartand Soul

America has voted. Every 4 years we do. We have just elected a President that not many expected. It was a strange election cycle for sure.

During the campaign, each side claimed the mantle of knowing “our American values” and that the other side did not share them. But what are those values?

The morning after the election, I posted the following:

Announcement: Old rules apply

Work hard to get ahead. Make something, sell something, own something, provide a service. If you succeed, congratulations. If you fail, try again … this is America. No crying, no whining, no marching, no safe rooms.

Good news – we are all equal. Bad news – we are all equal.  We can always do better. So go out there and make something of yourself. America will survive.

Now I have to go to work.

Many responded positively to the message. 

We do have some shared American values. America is the land of opportunity. If you work hard, you can achieve anything. Everyone should have a chance to make it.

But there are caveats – we are a country of laws; everyone must play by the same rules; we have a system of checks and balances; justice is blind; and there must be equal treatment under the law. When those caveats fall apart, our values fall apart. We need to do better in many of these areas.

Our founding fathers set up a wonderful system of government. Informed by the oppression of a singular monarch in England and the bloody rule of the mob in France, they set up a constitution based on the balance of powers. The Constitution ensures that power is not concentrated in one person, one group, or one region of the country.

We are not radicals. Across the globe, we see a group of radicals calling themselves the Islamic State who are killing people who do not believe as they do; who are brutally dismembering Catholics in the name of their religion; and torturing women, children and gays in a distorted view of their religion. That is not an American value.

We are not expansionists. I see a Russia intent on expanding its empire into the Ukraine and other nations. America is not expanding its nation. We seek a world where free people and free nations can vote for themselves. We do not seek to expand our empire at all. That is not an American value.

We are also not communists. We do not believe it is the role of the state to own all the assets of the nation and parcel them out to the people. That has not worked any place it has been tried – Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela or anywhere else.

We believe in freedom – free speech, the free exercise of religion, freedom to assemble, free markets and free enterprise. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Democracy may be messy but it is the best system in the world.

So our democracy held its election. The coasts stayed blue, the heartland stayed red, but the rust belt switched to red and voted for Trump looking for new answers after years of economic decline due to globalization. The Constitution worked. One region of the country did not dictate to the whole nation. We are United States. 

Some in our country are rioting in the streets about the election results. The hypocrisy is staggering. The same people and media who were shocked when Trump hedged about respecting the results of the election are now protesting those results. Spoiled millennials are wearing black to school, schools are providing grief counsellors, lecturers are being brought in on conflict resolution, and children are being excused from exams if they are too disturbed by the election.

On this Veterans Day, let’s remember the greatest generation. People who faced real hardship and real loss, not media manufactured grief. Families sent their sons and daughters off to war to defend the freedoms we share today and many did not return. The younger generation needs to suck it up.

It may be trite, but “America is great because America is good”. We are a compassionate meritocracy. You have the right to “the pursuit of happiness”. Success and happiness are not guaranteed, it must be “pursued”, it must be earned. So go out and make something of yourself. Find your own happiness. Think for yourself. Don’t let the media or the mob think for you.

Let me offer some reading assignments to our younger generation. I turn to the Brooks Brothers – Arthur and David. Arthur Brooks from the American Enterprise Institute writes on the “heart” of America. David Brooks from the New York Times writes on the “soul” of America. They are not really brothers, but are both great scholars on our democracy, our freedoms, our free markets, free enterprise and its capacity to lift up all people.

Democracy and free markets have been the greatest liberating force in the world. Arthur Brooks does a great TED talk on the subject. Watch it. Our free enterprise system gives people purpose, earned success, and lifts people up. That is the heart of America.

And let’s not lose our moral compass. David Brooks wrote a great book about the Road to Character. Read it and David’s blog and watch his TED talk. The book tells poignant tales of people who overcame obstacles to do great things in their lives and in the world. A little adversity is a good thing. You set goals and you overcome obstacles. You get knocked down and you get back up. That is the soul of America.

So on this Veterans Day, let’s not forgot those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy. Those whose sacrifices were great so we could be great. They are the heart and soul of America.

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