Butch Mazzuca: Plenty to love about U.S.
Social commentator David Bueche relates a story about driving to work one day and stopping behind a Lexus with a “Got Hope?” bumper sticker, and thinking to himself, “How bad can it be if you’re driving an ES 350?” In many ways, that bumper sticker epitomizes an attitude far too many Americans have adopted. Personally, I’d much rather see President Clinton’s statement, “There is nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed by what’s right with America” on a bumper sticker ” even if it stretched from taillight to taillight.
I’m tired of the “sky-is-falling” doom and gloom crowd who keep telling us how bad things are in these United States. But by almost any unit of measurement we live in a society so blessed that it has no historical parallel, nothing comes close unless we include the Garden of Eden. Of course, we have problems. Every civilization that ever existed has had problems, it’s part of life. But the issue isn’t that we have problems, rather it’s how we work together to deal with those problems.
Do we bemoan and complain, closing our minds to possibilities; or do we open our minds, look to the future with optimism and reinvent and innovate? Legitimate criticisms in a classic liberal democracy are appropriate, but the extreme negativity emanating from much of the media as well as certain elected officials and their supporters is patently unhealthy.
Perhaps we might benefit by heeding the lesson an old Cherokee chief taught his grandson while sitting around the campfire one evening. The chief related the story of the two wolves within each of us. “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil ” it is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, cynicism, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good ” it is joy, peace, love, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, optimism, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” Then after a moment the grandson asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Chief replied simply, “The one you feed.”
So which wolf do you feed? Do you blame the administration, Congress, “greedy” bankers and oilmen for a down economy? Or do you recognize that all capitalistic economies are cyclical, and economic downturns like the one we’re in now occur about every seven years. Do you acknowledge the fact that by all historical standards even when things are “bad” in America they’re good?
The economy has contracted in recent months; nevertheless, 95 percent of the workforce is gainfully employed. Mortgage crisis? Home ownership stands at 70 percent, and 96 percent of those homeowners are making timely mortgage payments. Yes, there was some predatory lending, but there was also a lot of greed coupled with irresponsibility on the part of people with high-school and college diplomas who bought houses way beyond their means.
Meanwhile, showing compassion for those defaulting on home loans is understandable; but where is it written that it’s government’s responsibility to bail-out its citizens for questionable financial decisions? Lest we forget, the Founders created a system that provided equal opportunity ” not equal outcomes.
Far too many pols and pundits look at the United States, compare it to perfection, and find it wanting. As David Bueche opined, too often they demand that we start over and dismiss arguments for moderation and caution with comments such as, “Anyone who can accept the wretched state of health care in this country is an idiot.” But that type of negative thinking is toxic. Instead of lamenting “the wretched state of health care” why not express thanks that our health care is the finest the planet has ever known and then work to refine the existing system and make it better?
Americans are blessed with political, social and religious freedoms that are the envy of billions. I mean, just how bad is a society that can choose its public officials in free elections? How bad is it when every single person within that society is able to express his or her opinions on a street corner or in a letter to the editor without fear of repercussions; and how awful is a society that allows its citizens to choose when, where and how to worship ” or for that matter, to choose not to worship at all? There are simple everyday freedoms we take for granted, but are unheard of for three-quarters of the planet.
There is exponentially more positive and good than negative and bad in America. So for just a moment, imagine a society where instead of criticizing all things that don’t comport with our personal politics, we jettison the ideology and acknowledged our abundance.
Liberals and conservatives will never sing Kumbaya in unison; but a slight attitude adjustment just might help all of us realize that America remains a shining city on a hill, the driving force in a global economy and the world’s strongest advocate of freedom, democratic principles and human rights.
Quote of the day: “Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot; others transform a yellow spot into the sun.” ” Pablo Picasso.
Butch Mazzuca is a business consultant and writes a column for the Vail Daily.