A 12-step Program to American Recovery — Part V

TwelveStepsThumb2by Deana Chadwell
Part V – Of Salads and Dysfunction • It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “A nation divided against its self cannot stand.” He was speaking in a context of civil war so his words carried that weight. The statement demands consideration in today’s context as well, and it brings me to my fifth step in re-establishing an America of promise – we have to start thinking of ourselves as Americans first.

I am a woman, but I am pre-eminently an American – my female DNA is a choice God made for me and does not determine my political allegiances. I am an American. I have Danish-Dutch-Czech-Swiss ancestry, but that is just interesting, conversational fodder, not an issue on which I vote. I am a senior citizen, which mostly affects my speed – how quickly I can unbend after sitting a while, how long it takes me to do my make-up, how fast I drive – but it doesn’t make me part of a voting block. I am an individual – an American.

Americans are a people who solve problems, who invent, who take risks; almost all of us have at least one ancestor who took the gamble of crossing an ocean to get here. We are people who value decency, hard work, and integrity. We aspire to be the best that we can be. We don’t take no for an answer, in fact we thrive on pressure and challenge, on adventure and innovation, on potential and hope.

Yes, we will always carry with us the residue of slavery. We will always be aware that we pushed aside another group of people who lived here before Europeans showed up. But that history happened a long time ago and picking at those scabs gets us nowhere. It’s true that humans rarely learn as much from history as we should, but I think we got it on these issues.[pullquote]…we have a president who lives like a Middle-Eastern potentate and slanders the “rich.” What exactly does that accomplish? If we all hate the rich will the poor then be comfortable?[/pullquote]

Yes, some of us have amassed fortunes. Some of us haven’t. Some of us have made dismal life decisions, and some of those folks are rich, some poor. I thought America aspired to be a classless society and now we have a president who lives like a Middle-Eastern potentate and slanders the “rich.” What exactly does that accomplish? If we all hate the rich will the poor then be comfortable?

We are neither black nor white, native nor immigrant, wealthy nor impoverished, male nor female. We are not even essentially conservative or liberal. We are Americans and we’ve got to start putting that first.

For quite a while now forces have existed that insist on separating us; diversity has become more important than unity. We’re no longer a melting pot, but “a salad.” I was told that by one of my college professors. Good grief – salads rot – or get eaten. America is so fragmented now that we can barely hold it together, and yet, our president and his administration have trained their laser-like focus on driving wedges (no golf pun intended) into every crack and cranny they can find.

We’re constantly urged to nurse our grievances at the expense of our fellow Americans. Isn’t it interesting that in the interest of inclusiveness we would constantly be harangued about which group we exclusively belong to? Are you one of the 99% or the 1%? Are you gay or straight? Old or young? Pro-choice or pro-life? Christian or atheist? Tea party or OWS?

I’m not an advocate of ignoring our differences or of homogenizing them. If you are black, you’re black. If you are Hispanic, you’re Hispanic. OK, fine. But you are an American first. We are all in this together and we mustn’t let the incessant barrage of anti-whatever -propaganda trick us into seeing each other as faceless enemies. If we’re Americans first, we’re individuals, not groups.[pullquote]Isn’t it interesting that in the interest of inclusiveness we would constantly be harangued about which group we exclusively belong to?[/pullquote]

My students were often appalled to discover – as they occasionally did through the school grapevine – that I was a conservative. I was a public school teacher, heavily involved in the performing and literary arts, and I wasn’t a liberal?!? Several of these kids were so amazed at this arrangement that they wrote their college application essays about it. Doesn’t that strike you as odd? Why did they have the idea that those things were mutually exclusive?

We pledge allegiance to this country, to the idea of this country – not to the countries of our grandparents’ birth, not to a union, a club, a party, or a race. If we can’t see the importance of that idea, then heaven help us. Our enemies – and we have them, both within and without, no doubt get a thrill up their legs with every display of American disunity, and they must love it a great deal when it is our president who encourages the display. [pullquote]The nation’s designers leaned heavily on Judeo-Christian mores, Anglo-Saxon governmental patterns, and Greek philosophy. They saw capitalism, production, and business as the route to plenty for all. America honored the individual, giving each citizen the opportunity to chase dreams, yet it depended on each citizen to take care of himself and his family.[/pullquote]

Each of us must decide if we want the America our founding fathers designed. That America was a nation of aspirations. It was imperfect – of course; it was new and as with all nations, it was constructed of flawed human beings. It’s still quite young, as nations go, and we still have a great deal to accomplish. The nation’s designers leaned heavily on Judeo-Christian mores, Anglo-Saxon governmental patterns, and Greek philosophy. They saw capitalism, production, and business as the route to plenty for all. America honored the individual, giving each citizen the opportunity to chase dreams, yet it depended on each citizen to take care of himself and his family.

Wanting to improve the execution of those original ideas will keep us a great nation. But that is not the same thing as wanting to scrap it, to “fundamentally change” it. There’s nothing wrong with its fundamentals, nothing wrong, or old-fashioned, about seeing each individual as worthy of making his own life choices. There is nothing magically different about the 21st century that renders that idea passé. But if we are to retain that personal freedom, and accomplish our original goals, we have to see ourselves as responsible, particular persons, each a necessary and unique part of the greatest experiment man has ever undertaken.

Part I – Calling a Spade
Part II – The Specter of Sigmund and Ghosts of Christmas Past
Part III – There Oughttabea Law
Part IV — The Faceless, “Omnipotent” They
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Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com.

Works Cited:  Eschenbach, Willis. “When Results Go Bad …”. Watts Up With That? November 29, 2009.  •  Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed. Dir. Nathan Frankowski. Perf. Ben Stein. Premise Media Corp. 2008.  •  Wilkie, Christina. “Rep. Hank Johnson: Guam could ‘tip over and capsize‘”. The Washington Scene. The Hill. March 31. 2010. • (1034 views)

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Deana Chadwell

About Deana Chadwell

I have spent my life teaching young people how to read and write and appreciate the wonder of words. I have worked with high school students and currently teach writing at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. I have spent more than forty years studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics and that finds its way into my writing whether I’m blogging about my experiences or my opinions. I have two and a half moldering novels, stacks of essays, hundreds of poems, some which have won state and national prizes. All that writing — and more keeps popping up — needs a home with a big plate glass window; it needs air; it needs a conversation.
I am also an artist who works with cloth, yarn, beads, gourds, polymer clay, paint, and photography. And I make soap.

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One Response to A 12-step Program to American Recovery — Part V

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    This has long been a concern: Are blacks (for example) Americans who happen to be black, or blacks who happen to live in America? This is the problem I have with open homosexuals in the military. Anyone who is open and flamboyant about being a homosexual would be a homosexual who happens to be a soldier (etc.), not a soldier who happens to be a homosexual. This is far more serious in the military (where unit cohesion is very important) than in civilian life.
    But even in civilian life, diversity can be a problem. Robert Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone, learned in his studies that increasing diversity in a community leads to decreasing trust — in other members of the community (including members of one’s own group), in government, in private institutions. He chose not to publish these findings until he decided that EVENTUALLY such communities would come together. In essence, they would become community members first, members of identity groups second.
    A slight correction on Cousin Abe’s “House Divided” speech. He made this in June 1858, discussing the effects of state-by-state differences in slavery. He expected the US to survive rather than fall, but argued that to do so it would become all slave (a repugnant notion) or all free. A recent book on the campaign suggests that this speech, and especially the notion of legal equality for blacks that it raised, is what defeated Lincoln. (Most of the old Whig areas — the part of the state Lincoln had represented in the state legislature and the House — voted for Douglas Democrats, thereby enabling the Little Giant to win another Senate term.)

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