“Settled Issues” in the United States

Observation of our country this July 4

“We can be cold as the falling Thermometer in December if you ask about our weather in July. And we’re so by-gone stubborn, we can Stand touching noses for a week at a time, And never see eye-to-eye.”

Iowa Stubborn, The Music Man. 1957

As long as this country has been around, there have been people that have tried to put their finger on the mentality of an American.

Sure, they find their finger on “American Exceptionalism” or “Frontier Spirit” in many of their discoveries. However, as this country enters its 244th year, it might be that we have to dive deeper to really find what it is that drives Americans.

We can go back to a point in time to find this. The State of the Union Address in 2014.

At that address, President Barak Obama, working to try and move a conversation along about climate change, said, “The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way.  But the debate is settled.  Climate change is a fact.”

“The Debate is Settled…..is a fact”.

While those in the “climate change denying camp” said that nothing is settled, this very debate opened up an insight to me about what it means to be an American.

A microcosm of the veracity of debate on issues. A unique trait of Americans
PC: Screenshot, Facebook. Link to Duffy’s Soapbox

It says to me, first, that telling an American that the debate on an issue is settled will receive a healthy dose of “yeah, right” from many across this country.

Even with the current situation occurring in this country, where more and more legalities are mandating the wearing of a mask to control the spread of the Coronavirus, you will find many on the other side of this pronouncement saying “it doesn’t work” and “I ain’t wearing no damn mask even if you tell me one breath of this virus will kill me.”

Nothing, in this country, stated as “fact” is immune from other Americans working to challenge that assertion. While some may want the debate to be over for the sake of, say, achieving a goal, the DNA that makes America will never lead us to any 100% consensus on many matters.

While it might be frustrating for the American to deal with, it is also what attracts so many to our country to start a new life. Instead of being told “we say this, and you will believe it”, the American psyche says, instead “we have a belief, and you are free to challenge it”.

There are not many countries that allow for a counter debate, let alone celebrate it as we do in America. In fact, not only do we celebrate it, we almost demand it be done by those who choose to engage in the marketplace of ideas. Why? Because while we may all know something of a subject, the combination of all of us, complete with the tussle of debate, allows us to know more about a subject than not.

Let’s take for instance the Black Lives Matter (BLM) situation that our country is now engaged in, and a position I am taking on it.

As a person from Hawaii, it is a subject that has a number of buffers between me and the core of its issue. Some of the issues don’t exist here as they do, say in Minneapolis. Some of the unique issues of Hawaii don’t exist anywhere else in this country.

But an exercise, making the rounds again on Facebook, brings to me a pointed example of what we are talking about in race relations:

“I want every white person in this room, who would be happy to be treated as this society in general treats our citizens, our black citizens. If you as a white person would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society – please stand!”

This statement is made by Jane Elliott, who is a diversity expert. She makes this statement to a group of white people in a classroom as part of her lessons on teaching about what is racism and what is diversity. In this example, no one stands up precisely because those in the room know full well how one set of Americans are treated over another set.

So, while I am not happy with the violence that has occurred in the name of BLM – I think violence is a very poor way of making a point – I can also see the underlying reasons why people, by and large, are mad and want a change.  

And it is on those issues, emphasized by the example done by Jane Elliott, that we should focus on, to lessen the widening gulf between the races in this country.

E Pluribus Unum
“E Pluribus Unum” by Lawrence OP is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Going back to the premise of this piece, I am sure that there will be one or more comments that take the exact opposite approach, and possibly a debate will ensue. It will only stop by the people in that debate, as there is no one person in this country that will jump in and say “the debate is settled…and this is what we will believe.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the hallmarks of what makes America what it is.

Happy Fourth of July folks!