The Lost American Virtue

Making do.  Getting on with it.  Figuring it out.

We used to know how to do this.  For example…  everyone here who knows how to darn a sock, raise their hand.

What, no takers?

Socks used to be hand knitted.  You didn’t have a gazillion pair hanging out in the back of your drawer with the all-important right sock living in a free-sock colony under your dryer (or wherever it is that lost socks end up).   Someone had touched your socks, they didn’t magically appear out of a knitting machine in China and a plastic bag from Walmart.  You knew where they were.

Fine.  It’s been a long time since your socks were made by someone that gave a crap about you (and whom you, in return, felt some affection or obligation to.)  Maybe socks aren’t the best analogy.  How about cars? I recently went tromping through a nasty, dirty, hot, oil-slicked junk yard with a friend.  We were looking for the back end of his car – one that hadn’t been smushed like his had been smushed.  We didn’t find it.  But we did find the cable that connects his power steering.  It wasn’t on his exact car, but a similar enough make and model that the power steering cable was the same.  So he pulled it off the one car, paid $2.00 for it and had fixed his power steering in the time it took for me to go to the restroom.

Fine.  I like my affluence as much as anyone.  Or at least I liked it when I had more of it.  Pedicures and massages and $100 spent wherever just because I can.  I know how to change the oil in a car, at least theoretically.  I haven’t done it in a good 15 years, but I could probably still figure it out.  I just don’t know why we’ve been so quick, culturally, to abandon the American bootstrap mentality.  Where did our pragmatism go?

I bring this up because of Congress.  Stupid, Effing.  Congress.  And all of our politicians.  And we the people that made them.

Because as bad as they are, we made them.  We wanted a bunch of puppets to represent us based on one pet theory (mine is that women are equal and should have exclusive say over what happens to their bodies, but I digress) and that’s what we got.  A less-polite, infinitely more pompous rabble of Muppets with the hand of the constituent shoved up their pants-less underside.   And they spend their days squawking and fussing about defending this little stamp-sized patch of the American landscape (cultural, economic, geographic, whatever) instead of looking at the whole damn country.  What would be so hard about sitting down and saying “this sh!t ain’t working”?  Who gives a damn about ideology when it can’t produce an acceptable outcome.

So what are the basics?  Let’s start with education.

How can we expect to compete in the global marketplace when we leave out huge chunks of our biggest resource – the intellectual capital and curiosity that is present in our children.  We don’t know how to think anymore – we just parrot back the sh!t we see on TV.  Something should be done about that.  And it isn’t going to happen in the way that we’ve been doing it.  I’m not sure there is a single answer for every school in the country – we see how “no child left behind” worked out in practice.  Smaller classrooms, education that recognizes that not everyone learns in the same way, an approach that focuses on churning out thinkers instead of obeyers that can cough up multiple guess answers in their sleep.  Shrink the Department of Education considerably – turn it into the educational equivalent of NIH.  Task it with generating research and issuing things that are going to be helpful to local school districts in making genuine progress towards a new concept of schooling rather than perpetuating the way it’s always been.

Next: health.  We can’t have a functioning country of sick people.  The health insurance system we’ve got right now was a snap decision made in the Nixon administration.  We know how good Nixon was at making sound, reasoned decisions.  Why does it have to be an identity crisis for the nation to look at our healthcare system?  How it is doesn’t work, but that’s not necessarily the government’s fault.  We collectively need to figure out that we aren’t going to live forever and deal with it.  Insurance has a  stranglehold on the whole system and that’s a problem.   Government-run medicine makes sense.  It makes sense because it frees up individuals to undertake their own enterprise without having to panic about how they are going to be getting their kids to the doctor.

Taxes: Simplify that sh!t.  No business succeeds on its own.  UPS drives on government-maintained streets.  Amazon lives and breathes by the US Post Office.  No commerce can take place without the infrastructure.  We all benefit from national security and all the other stuff the government does.  Quit your whining about how much tax you have to pay.  You’re American.  Taxes are the price you pay for everything that is awesome about America.  You can’t have the benefits without paying the price so suck it up buttercup.  Kill the loopholes, tax people reasonably, and deal with the budget.

Government:  That’s going to take a whole new post, but it isn’t as hard as we’re making it out to be.

Maybe the path from here to there is going to be rocky.  Maybe something new is a little scary.  Maybe it requires a leap of faith. But look at our history.  Who can’t trace their roots back to someone who toughed it out in some way or another?  Got brave, took a leap of faith, did what needed to be done, and got on with it?

The Lost American Virtue

3 thoughts on “The Lost American Virtue

  1. Hand was up.

    My thoughts on our system is that we consistently want something for nothing. We want a world-class education system while we lay off teachers and end funding for instructional materials. We want to live as long as Canadians (doesn’t everyone?) but we don’t want a national health system. I could go on, but you get the idea. We’re cheapskates.


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