What do you get the 236-year-old that has everything*? It’s easy to get down, and it’s easy to feel bleak about the country we call home. After all, we have seen very few reasons in the last twelve years to jump for joy. We were attacked by terrorists on our own soil. We were pulled into two completely unfunded wars. We’ve seen income inequality reach levels of major concern historically. When the housing and lending industries took a nose dive into Shit Town, U.S.A., it was like the final punch in the face from a heavyweight, and we went down.
Make no mistake, we hit the canvas like a two-ton rock made of the American Dream. Suddenly, every single chicken had come home to roost from over thirty years of systematic de-regulation, safeguards put in place the last time our country was plunged into a Depression, and we saw the embers of a fire known as American dominance slowly burn out, with fewer and fewer Americans getting a higher-education thanks to out of control tuition costs and student loan rates. It has been a really fucking exhausting last few rounds, and there’s no doubt our 236-year-old body is showing some signs of fatigue.
But this is nothing new, America. This is nothing we even need to fear. Rather, we need to be the heavyweight champions that we’ve been in the past, and get our asses up off the floor and start swinging again. There is absolutely no reason we can’t rebuild ourselves again, as we’ve had to do several times in our nation’s still young history. There are many criticisms you can levy against our nation, from racism to a lack of reverence for intellectualism, to extreme cockiness when it comes to just about any subject on Earth. But there’s one thing that remains true about us: we can start a new chapter and move forward, and we’ve done it many times already.
Slavery was abolished, women were given the right to vote, and Jim Crow laws were tossed out as unconstitutional. These are just three examples of Americans seeing just how far off course we’d gotten from being a truly free society, and we corrected it. Then there’s the fact that we pulled ourselves out of a depression that could have crippled our country for much, much longer than it did, and not only did we survive The Great Depression, we thrived for almost forty years coming out of it.
So this year, on our nation’s 236th Birthday, what do you say we go in together and give this old friend of ours some much-needed gifts, because the truth is we don’t now, nor will we ever really truly “have everything,” but we can always find those things we’re missing and hand them over with a nice red bow on top anytime we please.
1. Compromise – You know, it may sound crazy, but a long time ago gridlock wasn’t the issue that it is today. The way it used to work is that there would be a new idea proposed by one of the political parties, and they’d debate it. There would be heated argument but when it came time to vote, they voted. Those who defend the obstructionist tactics the Right Wing has been engaging in will point out that the filibuster has been around forever. While that may be true, never before have the two parties been so hell-bent on destruction of the other that they’d prefer to slow the country’s growth down than to compromise. If we can’t get the message to our Congressional representatives that compromise is better than inaction, we’re in big trouble.
2. Universal Health Care – Undoubtedly a hot-button issue. But when you look at the list of countries that already enjoy some if not total universal health care coverage, it makes you wonder why once again our country is behind the curve. At some point civilized societies figure out that the more healthy their work force is, the more robust and productive it will be. Conservative critics love to malign European countries that have nationalized health care and mandated vacation days that far exceed the week (if that) that Americans get. They say they’re all lazy over there, that they depend on their government too much. But maybe it’s just that they don’t depend on their governments as much as they believe in their government not fucking everything up. The Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction, the planks on which Universal Health Care will ultimately stand. It won’t be easy, but now that the foot is in the door, it’s time to walk through.
3. The Return of the Middle Class – This country was at its most productive, and our growth was most explosive as our Middle Class grew exponentially and then flourished from the time after the second World War up through and into the 1970s. Not since that roughly thirty year period have we seen the same kind of lift to our country’s economy and way of life. As the Middle Class has dwindled down and been kicked to the curb, so too has our economy faltered. It’s time to give the gift of a strong Middle Class to the country. If that means Exxon/Mobil has to pay higher taxes on their record-high profits, then that’s how it should go. If that means that millionaires and billionaires need to have their taxes raised to rates that they were at no more than twenty years ago, then that’s how we roll. Yes, some cuts in spending will have to come too, and they need to start with the most bloated department: Defense. When we get our Middle Class back on solid ground, we’ll all be amazed at how much better life is for everyone.
4. Higher Education for All Who Want It – Society will not evolve without education, that much is plain. Science is what sparks innovation, and science is first explored in school. We can’t have scientists if we’re not actively encouraging our younger generations to fall in love with learning, and then to take that love of learning as far as they can go. We are now living in an information age, and information is best absorbed and discovered in the class room. Just imagine what we’d discover if we subsidized science education and experimentation like we do oil.
5. Marriage Equality for All – 236 years ago a bunch of old white men signed a document that told another group of old white men that they wanted to be free. In fact, in very eloquent and timeless terms, the framers of our government laid out their vision for the world. That vision spoke of freedom for one and all. Ironically while they were speaking of freedom for all they were colluding to keep their slaves and did so in part by proclaiming them worth 66% of the white people in the country. That aside, here we are, 236 years later and there is still a group of Americans who is treated as a sub-class. It’s time, America. It’s time to quit being assholes and pass a Constitutional amendment that outlaws marriage discrimination based on sexual orientation. We cannot let old, religiously based bigotry continue to keep us in the position of a schoolyard bully. Marriage is a right, and we have no business denying it to anyone.
*Includes, but is not limited to: a sagging economy, a gridlocked legislative governing body, millions of uninsured citizens, a shrinking middle class and denial of marriage rights to a minority population