I am going to start this piece with a little gift of five magic words for you: "I CAN'T never did anything." They are words that I heard many times growing up. They were sometimes spoken harshly, other times spoken as encouragement. They were never spoken to deride, diminish or demean. They were spoken by a man that lived by them. That man was my father.
My Dad was a fighter. He lost his own father when he was 9 years old. In order to help support his family, he worked several jobs while he went to school. He did his homework late at night after he got home from work. In 1944, he graduated as class valedictorian then went into the Navy to fight for his country. He was near the top of his class in radio school where he learned the emerging technologies of RADAR and LORAN systems. He was on one of the first hurricane hunter missions where the Navy flew a plane into the eye of a storm. On that mission they lost an engine and nearly went down, but they fought their way back.
In his career, my father advanced by solving problems. Adversity was his friend and constant companion, and he used it to excel. As a result, the young man who started out climbing poles for the phone company in 1946 retired from one of its executive offices in 1982. Along that journey, he lived by his personal standards of fairness and hard work. He imparted those standards to the people around him, and held them to account. I suspect that he pulled many of those people along with him. Those of us who were privileged to know him were taught a valuable lesson: It's not what happens to you in life, it's what you do with it.
"I CAN"T never did anything." It was a phrase that defined my father, his generation, and many generations before his that had the benefit of being born in this country. The term "American Exceptionalism" is often confused with patriotism and nationalism. Those things do grow from it but we as Americans are not exceptional because of some genetic trait. America is exceptional because its founding permitted citizens to profit from their dreams, to express what they felt, to freely create and produce, and to be who they were without interference from a king, sovereign, or politburo. Americans by benefit of our Constitution are free spiritually, intellectually and economically. Liberty combined with free markets empowers all men and women. That power feeds the human spirit with inspiration, imagination, and faith. It makes an individual think "I CAN".
Put more simply, when I told my father: "I CAN'T" do so and so because of such and such his response was "I CAN'T never did anything" (often accompanied by a cuff to the back of my head). The lesson was that you won't know what you can do until you try. You may try and fail, but when you try and succeed you gain character and self-worth. Once that lesson is learned, a person will try on their own to extend themselves and take risks toward further accomplishments, and they will do so without a smack in the head. Dreams and successes perpetuate themselves, and when human beings are permitted to think in such a way, Greatness often occurs. This is Who We Are as Americans.
So how, you may ask, did Donald Trump win a presidential election running on the slogan "Make America Great Again?" It's because Who We Are has changed. Who We Are is beaten down and stepped on. Who We Are is confused, depressed, angry and afraid. Anger and fear are the enemies of creativity. Confusion and depression sap the foundations of hard work and accomplishment.
The things that are changing us have been growing in this country for decades. Consider that in 1930 we built the Empire State Building in 410 days. In 1968, we built the two World Trade towers in three years; they were taken from us on September 11, 2001. The Freedom Tower that replaced them was not completed until 2013. It took us six years to build it and five years before that to figure out how we wanted to do it. The Keystone XL Pipeline was started in 2010 and it may never be finished. We seem to have developed an inherent inability to move, to focus on what needs to be done, to isolate what problems need to be solved. We have changed how we think.
There are two fundamental reasons for this change, and the first one is our government. The government of our founding was an enabler. Its job was to ensure our safety, enforce our laws and to hold an even playing field so that we as individuals could grow. The government we have now is an oppressor, here to tell us what we must and must not do. It stops us at every turn to check in and make sure we are still doing those things correctly. It stifles our ability to think freely and slows our ability to grow. It makes us think "I CAN'T."
When Barack Obama had the unmitigated arrogance to tell our nation's business owners "you didn't build that," he was in essence saying, "You pathetic little people. You cannot create anything without us. You cannot succeed unless we tell you how to make your products, who you will hire, where you will get your health care, and how you will distribute your profits" This really sucks the enthusiasm out of the old entrepreneurial spirit.
Facing such obstacles, it's easy to think "why bother?" Just put your dream aside and become one of the 49.5% of Americans now on some form of public assistance. Public assistance is not a bad thing mind you, but when it becomes a way of life it too saps the basic human need for fulfillment and fosters thoughts of "I CAN'T."
When I was having trouble getting my own business off the ground my father gave me another quote. He said, "the only way an airplane ever takes off is by running it flat out and straight into the wind." I think of these words often when in need of inspiration, but lately I am reminded that no airplane can take to the sky with two tons of government on each wing.
The other problem we have with how we think is how we speak. Your words are a reflection of your thoughts and likewise what you say changes how you think. Just ask Winston Smith from Orwell's 1984. Our current national lexicon is changing, and not for the better. Our confusion and loss of self-worth is supported by our very language. Less than two years ago, a person claiming that "All lives matter" was considered to be fair and moral. Say it today, and you are labeled a deplorable racist.
We are continually fed euphemisms that obfuscate the true meaning of things. Global Cooling became Global Warming, which then became Climate Change. The underlying message is that whenever the weather is bad, it's your fault. That part is still the same.
The term "Sanctuary Cities" is a dangerous euphemism. "Sanctuary Cities" are places where the local government protects illegal immigrants (undocumented workers) from federal prosecution for violating our immigration laws. It does this while providing these people taxpayer funded services meant for its citizens. Previously, this activity would be referred to as "aiding and abetting", or "harboring a fugitive", both of which are felonies.
In December 2016, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser asked her city council to deny shelter to homeless people if they couldn't prove they were from her city. It seems the district was spending $80,000 a day on hotel rooms because their homeless shelters were full of outsiders who crossed their borders. The mayor's concern was that the city's budget would soon be exhausted and there would be no money to take care of their citizens. Interestingly, the same mayor proudly proclaimed that the District of Columbia would remain a "Sanctuary City". Was she insane or just confused? It's hard to tell these days.
President Obama was fond of telling us "That's not Who We Are" when trying to convince us to accept things that he thought were ok, but we were too small minded, selfish, imperialistic or racist to agree. He used this phrase 46 times during his presidency to support things like open borders, Islamic terrorism in our homeland, or the takeover of our healthcare system. I find this particularly distressing because I don't think he ever had a clue as to Who We Are, and after eight years of his leadership WE no longer know Who We Are. We don't even know which bathroom to use.
In 2016, Boston, Chicago, and New York were among many major metropolitan areas that saw a surge in their rat populations. Health concerns became serious. Rat abatement budgets swelled. People even began using feral cats to help with this growing problem. Then someone came up with the idea of putting dry ice down the rats' burrows and covering their holes. When dry ice melts, it turns into Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which is actually used in laboratories to humanely euthanize test animals. CO2 is also heavier than air, so it sinks to the bottom of a burrow and kills the rats underground where they die peacefully and don't even need to be picked up. Carbon Dioxide is a gas found naturally in our environment, it is what we exhale and what plants absorb. It is not only better for the environment than rat poison, it's cheaper. Genius! The idea started in Boston, then quickly spread to New York and Chicago which reported a 60% decrease in its rat population that summer. Ideas like this are what used to make people rich in this country. But now...
In September of 2016, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) began protests in Chicago claiming that rats do not deserve to die from dry ice and instead "merit our protection." Then in October, all three cities were told to stop the use of dry ice for rat abatement because they were in violation of federal law. It seems that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have dry ice registered as an accepted rodenticide. As 2016 came to a close the practice was stopped, and once again "Who We Are" was defined by complicated federal guidelines and "I CAN'T" raised its ugly head. But wait, stop and look at how obvious the solution to this really is...
When President Elect Trump made the deal to keep Carrier from moving jobs to Mexico, he inspired a brilliant observation from The View's chief economic analyst, professor Joy Bahar. While trashing Trump's idea she noted that, "the problem is we're losing jobs to robots not to Mexicans...we're losing it to technology." I found this a fascinating example of where we are right now, because if you turn this negative thought around, you will see opportunity. If we have for decades been losing manufacturing jobs to cheap foreign labor, and if new robotic technology replaces the need for that labor, then why don't we focus on becoming the leaders in high tech robotic manufacturing? We could change the labor force from assemblers and laborers to programmers and technicians. With the help of some corporate tax cuts from an enabling government we could bring manufacturing jobs back from all over the world and end the decades old problem of losing American jobs to cheap foreign labor. It's all in how you look at the problem, how you think about "Who We Are."
We need to be able to think for ourselves again and, in doing so, realize that the repressive rules and defeatist brainwashing we have been living with is, in the words of Sheldon Cooper "Complete Hokum." Part of what has been beating us down is the continual claim from those in charge that nothing is "that simple", that every problem is fraught with a complexity that only our most esteemed intellectuals and brightest politicians (truly a contradiction in terms) can figure out for us. This Hokum is what tells us not to try.
Maybe it's time to start looking inward and realizing that we are not as stupid as our leadership keeps telling us. Maybe we should start to realize that "Who We Are" is the product of what WE do and that WE are the ones who once made this country great. When WE are the brains behind the operation again, and government "for the people, by the people" starts working for us instead of against us, then "Making America Great Again" really will be "that simple". When we change the way we think and believe in ourselves again, we will start to see problems as challenges instead of insurmountable obstacles. Pick up your dry ice people, and throw it down the rat hole of self-doubt. Stop listening to all the Hokum and listen to yourselves again, and say it with me..."I CAN'T NEVER DID ANYTHING!"
Once that is done, "Making America Great Again" requires only three simple steps...
First, change government from an oppressor to an enabler. Dismantle our onerous rules, taxes, and regulations. It CAN be done if the people insist on it.
Second, give us some positive leadership that believes in the American people for a change. Leadership that supports "Who We Are", and what we can do. We need leaders who acknowledge an individual's inherent need to achieve.
Third, get out of the way and let us, the American people do the rest.
It Is That Simple!
I am thinking of sending this to President Trump to see if it comports with his current agenda. While I'm at it I will ask if in 2020 he can change his campaign slogan from "Making America Great Again" to "I CAN'T Never Did Anything". Maybe he will give it some thought. After all, it worked for my father.
By Ed Ayers for buddysays.net