Despite what members of the alt-right might believe, I’ve always known diversity makes America great. People come to our country to pursue their dreams and we, also immigrants, have learned to accommodate the different lifestyles and views they bring. In periods of economic or social change, our tolerance gets tested. When it occurs, few Presidents have managed to steer the ship of state without confronting turbulence. Franklin Delano Roosevelt did it better than most.
Fortunately for Americans, our strength depends less upon our leaders and more upon our diversity. Because we’ve made a habit of welcoming disparate cultures, our minds are flexible, as is our form of governance. Writer, teacher, political pundit Walter Mead agrees. “…our ability to cope with change remains one of the United States’ greatest sources of strength.” (“The Big Shift,” by Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs, May, June 2018, pg. 11.)
To blame a president for uncertain times may be natural, but it isn’t the whole truth. Donald Trump, for example, is good at tossing fuel on the bonfires of our anxieties but he is not the architect of our current disruption. We must blame technology for our angst. Technology has denied us job security, stolen our privacy, and created huge conglomerates — juggernauts that have put a stranglehold not only on what we know but when we know it. Yet many of the folks who brought us these disruptions were dreamers, not ideologues. The same was true when the country shifted from an agrarian to an industrial economy. Just as now, the change brought good and bad consequences which we had to address.
Technology has increased life spans, made medical breakthroughs, spread information around the globe, and increased our understanding of our planet and our universe. The globe, in fact, has become a village. Despite behemoths like Google and Amazon, technology has ushered in a new equality. With a computer, a woman working at her kitchen table can sell cosmetics to customers in India and grow an empire.
Though thinkers on the left would like to believe Donald Trump is our undoing, he didn’t kill the coal industry, or reduce the power of labor unions, or erode America’s educational standing when compared to other nations. (Click) The insecurity we feel is about the times, not the man. His mantra of exclusion is wrong-headed for a number of reasons, most particularly because he tempts us to believe we can return to a period lost in the annals of time. Worse, his vision fails to embrace the future which, whether he wills it or not, will come.
During the transition, I wish cooler heads would prevail. I see no champions as yet, only opportunists who seek to profit politically or financially from our fears. None of that shakes my unswerving faith in the common man. As Russell observes, “Americans, for their part, are the heirs to a system of mixed government and popular power that has allowed them to manage great upheavals in the past.” (Ibid pg. 19.) Whether the transition is peaceful or chaotic is up to us. Either way, we will survive and grow stronger. We always have.
(Originally published 7/16/2018)