America today finds itself in a bit of a slump. Historians can show that Americans have lived in much tougher times than these (think Civil War, World Wars, Great Depression, stagflation), but a concerned citizen can’t shake the feeling that America just doesn’t seem to be what it used to be.
A feeling of malaise seems to have crept back into our country. Our economy isn’t terrible, but it isn’t good either. Larry Summers says we are in state of so called “secular stagnation”, which means there is not enough capital investment in our economy and labor markets are weak. Basically, we are under-achieving.
In the political sphere things are just as bad, if not worse. Gridlock in Washington has become the new normal. No one reasonably expects major issues like tax reform, immigration or privacy to be addressed any time soon. Liberals don’t even acknowledge conservatives as having valid ideas for consideration, Harry Reid refuses to let the Senate vote on bills coming from the House and the President just doesn’t seem to care anymore. I’m not one to criticize Presidents for golfing- they all do it (except Teddy Roosevelt, who preferred boxing)- but it doesn’t take a PR expert to realize that a speech concerning a growing, genocidal, extremist terrorist group that even Al-Qaeda said was crazy, shouldn’t be directly followed by hitting the links.
Despite our current situation, we as Americans should not lose hope. For me, confidence in our country comes from different places.
Recently, I have had the pleasure of talking to some people from other countries. They are not necessarily immigrants, but they have spent long periods in America for reasons other than vacation. One of these people have a cousin that just moved here from Italy in order to start a business and send money back home. Despite their European style welfare state that college professors say we should emulate, the Italian economy is horrific so this man did what thousands did at the start of the 20th century and came to America. Lets see if he ends up staying for good, just like they did.
Others I have talked to are not from Europe. Some are wealthy and some are not. I particularly like talking to the ones that are well off in their own county. One girl was from China, but is attending university in Boston. Her parents want her to return to Shanghai and work for the government- a very prestigious career. The girl, however, wants to stay in America. It may be a cliche, but she loved the air of freedom (even though she was in Massachusetts, one of our less free states). She liked writing and saying what she wanted without punishment and actually being able to use Facebook and Twitter. Freedoms not had in her country.
There are still others I have talked to from different parts of the world that I need not give more details on. They are often people who could probably choose other countries to go to, but end up loving America. They talk of a “feel” in this country that just feels right. It would probably take a book to explain this “feel”, but I think I know what they are talking about.
It is the knowledge expressed in The Battle Cry of Freedom, that “Although he may be poor, not a man shall be a slave”.
It is what Lee Greenwood means when he sings “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”
It is embodied in our most sacred civil creed, that “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
I believe these thing are what draw people to America, and they are what we as citizens used to take pride in. But today we find ourselves in a situation without pride, without a sense of what it means to be an American. Our politicians have lost all trust of the public and have no honor, seeking to enrich themselves through corrupt means all while claiming that their actions are “for the common good”. This is a predictable consequence of big government, and can only be remedied by limiting the power of the state, just as our founders expected us to do. If we keep allowing our government to expand and infringe on our liberties in the name of “doing good”, we will lose the very thing that used to make our proud, and brings people to our shores: freedom.