The Other Great American Experiment

I look out the window. The last few yellow and orange and red and brown- even green – leaves flutter down, waving at me as they search for a place to land.  This fall they have been brilliant, especially in the early morning and late afternoon sun. 

Each spring I fertilize grass to perfection. Each summer I kill weeds and cut grass.  Each fall, nature nonchalantly covers my hard-earned grass with her leaves of many colors. She effortlessly merges them into one color – brown – and leaves them to nurture next years’ grass. I respond by raking them into piles to be hauled away by the town.  And wait for next spring when I will pay Lowes for bags of the same stuff I just tossed. 

Maybe, instead of sparring with nature,  I should just sit on a rocker with a glass of something and watch nature do its thing.

Speaking of politics, I don’t know about you, but I was pretty worried until last week. Portugal or Spain or Canada – anywhere out of reach of the MAGA cult – had become destinations of interest to me as I waited for the Red Wave. 

I know from history books, personal stories told by older generations, and current events, what can happen to a country run by a cult leader. From Italy’s Mussolini, to Hitler and Stalin,  and Russia’s Putin, authoritarians with charismatic personalities can demolish everything around them. 

They ferret out fear in their populations, fear of religion, skin color,  any “otherness” and fan it with big lies. Then they use that fear to cull the imperfect ones of a society, like weeds in the grass, until only perfect ones are left.

My worries faded with the red wave. 

Democracy can sure be a comfort. It is, by nature, inclusive, full of imperfect as well as perfect people. Its strength comes from the merging of those two, because the imperfect in one situation, can be perfect in another. Together, they always overcome all challenges. 

Well, until now.

In 1882, Emma Lazarus, wrote a poem to help raise money for the pedestal that would hold France’s 1884 gift to the US of the Statue of Liberty. It celebrated France’s recent freedom from monarchy and America’s recent ending of slavery.

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” 

Today we brag about this early tribute to “diversity” as the core of our Great American Experiment: we are a Democratic Republic based on the value of the individual. 

We pat ourselves on the back every day for being a nation of immigrants, for our diversity.

But we’re wrong. The diversity of the early settlers was hardly the diversity of today. It was diversity of White Christians only, who came to the new land to escape European Christianity and  practice their own version of Christianity. And, starting with the Salem Witch Trials, their version of Christianity quickly became as authoritarian and stifling as what they had escaped. Today Catholics and Evangelists dictate what a woman can do with her body – in some ways a dictate even more barbaric than the hangings in Salem.

But we’re also right. Our pride in the diversity we didn’t have is leading to a diversity we never expected. As a nation we are now trying to blend people from cultures and beliefs across the world: all colors, all religions from Christianity to Muslim to Hindu to the atheist down the street. 

Imagine a country where fear of others simply doesn’t exist. It has never been tried by any country. Never. 

We’re trying it, by connecting each other through democracy and the rule of law. It is quite an experiment.

It is not easy. The MAGA cult and others are fanning our fears – of immigrants escaping climate change and gangs, of Jews doing, well, just about anything. The Anti-MAGA’s point to the foreign names behind US success against COVID and the foreign accents of your local mechanic, teacher, or bank teller. People of different colors are appearing in everything from schools to TV shows to grocery stores to Boards of Directors. 

Are there challenges with this great experiment? Of course. Challenges are part any experiment.  

Maybe, instead of sparring with each other, we should just vote, then sit on a rocker with a glass of something and watch democracy do its thing.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)