The greatest, freest, and most decent
It’s election day in America. Love the candidates or hate them, we the citizens of the greatest nation on earth have the dearly-won privilege of educating ourselves and partaking in the voting process.
It is not a right to vote, it is a privilege.
It is a privilege that woman did not always enjoy. That black men in the 19th century couldn’t have dreamed of. That people without significant personal wealth or land were once denied. That immigrants who arrived on our shores poor and hungry but finally free would work towards for years, obtaining their citizenship and then proudly exercize.
America is broken and bruised right now, but she is still good. She is still the best and freest and most decent nation on earth, and the greatest experiment in human freedom that history has thus far produced.
Although we are straining at the social constructs that we once all held dear – or at least true – all hope is not yet lost for this great country of ours.
I was thinking about that this morning while watching my one year old toddle around with newfound ambulatory expertise, his chubby legs and too-small feet barely providing him the ballast to cross the living room. The fact is, no matter how fractured our social order might seem or how angry the media voices bleating out headlines, no matter how much mud the politicians sling at one another, this place we call home is still exceptional. And my tiny son, blissfully unaware of the problems and various national crises that assail us in the year 2016, had the good fortune to be born into the happiest and greatest place on earth.
Walk into a grocery store and smile at a stranger. 9 times of of 10, they will return the smile. Interact with a barista or cashier or other service industry employee and marvel at their friendliness and courtesy. Walk into a church or place of worship and do so freely, unencumbered by government harassment or persecution. Be confidant in the ability to find a place of worship, staffed by a member of the clergy of your faith, to worship with you in your faith tradition.
Put your children into a school that you can volunteer in, where you can advise the school board over the curriculum. Or teach them at home, or in a private school whose values align with yours. You have unprecedented choice and control over your children’s education.
Get a job and work hard, with integrity and timeliness and to the best of your ability, and see if you don’t advance along that career path, maybe even enjoying a raise or two along the way. Expect to be able to keep a significant – perhaps not significant enough, but still better than most places – portion of your income to spend and give and invest as you see fit. Take part of your paycheck and set it aside month after month and maybe in a little while there will be enough for a modest down payment on a little house you can own.
What I’m saying is that for all our problems, for all our difficulties and differences and the real ills that plague us as a people, America is still good. She is good and she is free, and she can continue to be good and even become great again, to the extent that her people do not lose sight of who they are.
America is not great because she is rich.
America is not great because of her many modern conveniences and all the newest technological advances.
America is not great because she is powerful.
America is great because she is good.
Because her people are good. Because there are millions of good Samaritans who inhabit this land between two shining seas who will still do the right thing when it is asked of them. Who will lend a hand and stop for an accident and report a crime and comfort a crying stranger. Who will take up the mantle of freedom won by generations past who sacrificed and bled for an unseen future and will carry it proudly and heroically into the unknown.
We must not forget that in this era of endless breaking news updates and fresh opportunities for outrage, that we are still good. That America is a good place. And that there are very few places like it on earth.
I have been to a few of them, and there is truly goodness and beauty everywhere. But America is something different. We have something special here.
Let us not lose sight of that. Especially tomorrow as our nation wakes in the light of a new administration, a new page turned in our national history. Whomever the heavy mantle of the Presidency falls upon tonight after the polls close, and however great the disappointment of half the country, we can still walk forward together in pursuit of a better, freer future for this great land of ours. We might have to work against our leaders and elected officials to realize these goals, but that does not mean they are unattainable. It just means we have to roll our sleeves up further and bend our knees in prayer more frequently.
Because America is still good. She is not perfect, but she is good. And she is worth fighting for.
On this election day, let us pray together in the words of St. John Paul II upon his visit to our great land 29 years ago:
Well, this made me tear up. Thanks for posting this Jenny. We need more reminders of this, especially after such a contentious election cycle. Hopefully all our prayers for the well being of our country will be answered, not necessarily with good leadership, but by God granting us the grace to work in service of our fellow citizens.
I have to laugh a bit at the image of friendly helpful people in the US. You live in a different part of the country! There are definite regional differences. Hard to believe that it makes a difference, but it really does. CA is not the friendliest place around (we know, because we lived here most of our life and moved to another state and saw what friendly really means, then moved back and got slapped back into CA reality). I’m sure there are pockets of goodness here and there, but CA is definitely not friendly, comparatively speaking.
I guess being older gives me a different point of view on the greatness of America, too…I really do have something to compare that your generation simply has never experienced. People my age or older know what I mean. In any case, America is a great IDEAL to work towards. But the further we move away from it, the fewer people will actually know what is missing. You cannot understand what you have never had. Ignorance is bliss (for awhile at least, until what is missing starts to have a painful reality associated with it).
But the good news is we can always make the world a better place no matter what state of disarray we might find in our society. It takes just one good idea to move in a better direction, and a lot of good people willing to work at it. It’s why my husband and I will smile and say hello to strangers who will look at the sky or ground or anywhere but in the eye when they encounter other people. It’s why we are called to witness to the truth about love of neighbor even if our neighbor doesn’t do likewise. We can’t be put off by things, we can only move forward by doing what we know is the right thing (or learning what we might not be doing right and humbly correcting ourselves so that we are not part of the problem).
I get what you’re saying. I’m a native SoCal girl who moved to Colorado with my husband and kids 3.5 yrs ago. Overall, people have been kinder here. I used to feel the need to apologize for my children in CA. People there seemed inconvenienced by them. Here in CO, people constantly smile at and try to engage with my children. They also frequently hold doors open for us. I know CO has lots of natives as well as people from Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. It seems to be a gentler people here. Of course we have liberals and people preferring dogs over kids. But mostly it’s been an improvement upon the unfriendliness experienced in Orange County, CA.
This is a lovely piece, Jenny. I agree with some of the other commenters that the platitudes really do not apply as much depending on where you live. I am in the hot bed of political drama, transient citizenry, and liberalism, known as our Nation’s Capital. It is awkward and uncomfortable, in some parts of the area, to be anything but a secular liberal; and that awkwardness and discomfort unfortunately extends to many workplaces here, including in the public sector.
For us, it has been a transforming and ultimately, I would say, fortunate experience to live here because it has helped turn us toward God much more so! Part of the transformation came from seeing how many people are disinterested in being friendly or neighborly overall; they are here to “get theirs.” They feel entitled and they get personally upset when you are in their way, whether it be literally physically in the way on the stairs to the subway, or in the way of their career ambitions, or government cheese, and so on.
I wish I could use a bullhorn to tell the country that what you see in the national media and the politicians is a lot of how Washington operates–in a bubble. I often feel like my family back home does not understand the level of corruption, selfishness, etc., among the elites here. However, methinks that last night’s results suggest most of the country gets this now, thankfully!
Another part that has been informative, albeit again uncomfortable, about living here is seeing what it really means to be in the minority opinion, and how the folks who make the decisions of late think of people who are religiously faithful Catholics and so on. It’s been eye-opening, because where I grew up (Chicago area) was very Catholic, even if now in name only for some; being a Catholic was one of the common threads among people, in fact. Not so, at all, here. A very different, if not completely opposite, environment.
Going to work today, I anticipated the sullen faces and attitude on the train, at work, etc. Much like Paul Krugman in his tweets and quick posts from last night, they are “terrified” not only at the outcome but at all these people who voted for Trump. With a secular mindset, they do not consider themselves chastened, humbled, or desiring to truly understand others with an open heart and what really may be the causes of this outcome. Instead, you hear claims of racism, misogyny, sexism, and worst of all, how everyone out there (i.e., the rest of the country outside of the Beltway, NYC, etc.) must just be “stupid.”
Washington’s entrenched will continue to presume they know better, even though the majority of the country last night told them that they do not. To me, that is the truly frightening outcome of last night’s election results.
you make a good point. I’ve lived in the Bay Area, the midwest, and now the Rockies, so I know the disparity is real. But I’ve also lived overseas and know that it is unprecedented the way Americans behave towards strangers and in customer service transactions. Never seen anything like it, on a wide scale, in any of the other countries I’ve visited.
As we were watching the results roll in last night I found myself becoming outrageously angry…with the media. How the polling and predictions could have gotten it all so wrong for so many months? As my husband posits, and as you suggest with your experience of being inside the Beltway, it really could be that they’re trapped in such a loud echo chamber that they can’t fathom everyinone else in flyover country not agreeing with them in lockstep. Myself, I think the mainstream media effort over this campaign season was more nefarious than that.
You’re most likely right about Washington. But the ultimate outsider is now heading to town. Although there are many question marks surrounding him, some of them troubling, I’m still curious to see what will happen, and what may be uniquely possible now after generations and generations of corrupt politics as usual.
I definitely agree that the MSM was “in the tank” for HRC, and that their polling reflected that. Even the mere suggestion of this, however, gets the secular liberals here very riled up! 😉
I agree that America is overall a friendly place. I think DC has been dismaying. If you can believe it, I actually find NYC to be a friendlier place than DC!!!
Finally, yes, people here also are nervous I think because DJT’s election means many unknowns. With both of the traditional party candidates, they’re comforted by “business as usual.” I think for real change to happens requires someone outside of career politics and also requires some struggle or discomfort for us all. No pain no gain, right? But as you can imagine, people here rely on the comfort of everything basically staying the same…so it was a REAL shock to their systems to see him win.
Will be praying for the greatest good!
Beautiful. As with most posts you write, I wish people would just settle down for a minute and read it.
You have no idea how much the words of dear John Paul the Great consoled me reading this! Thank you for sharing them!!!
Would you pretty please tell me where the full context of his Address to the US is? I want to be able to cite it when I share! 🙂
Much love and peace.
you got it lady. From his farewell address after his 1987 papal visit to the US: