I don't talk much about politics on this blog. For one thing, it would be boring; I doubt in-depth discussion of my own political preferences (for the record, conservative-leaning libertarian) would interest anyone but me. For another, political discussions are usually divisive, and the last thing a writer wants to do is push her readers away for no good reason.
But I believe there's a very good reason to delve into things political right now.
For the last nine months, I've watched -- first with amusement, then growing consternation, then outright dismay -- as large swaths of American voters have given their nod to a sexist, racist, antisemitic, abusive, bullying, lying, crass, vain, populist blowhole as the man they most want to represent them as a country, primarily because they seem to believe he will uphold the words of his slogan and "make America great again."
Let's set aside all the comparisons to infamous tyrants and dictators of the past, as tempting as it is to go there, and focus instead on the most important word of that slogan: "great." What does it mean?
Well, as it turns out, "great" is a loaded word with multiple meanings. It can have positive connotations, such as gigantic, distinguished, admirable, correct, abundant, important, famous, and honorable. It can also have negative connotations, such as terrible, grievous, awful, superior, no-holds-barred, extreme, desperate, and dismaying. And after seeing Mr. Populist Blowhole do his thing in televised debates and political rallies, I'm not at all certain his supporters know what working definition of "great" he is using.
Or, in the famed words of Inigo Montoya, "Stop saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
So if I could make one suggestion to American voters, it would be this. Let's set aside the idea of making America great again, and instead focus on making America good again.
Let's stop putting up walls to keep people out, and instead make America a place so free and inviting that people want to create their lives here. Let's stop strewing bureaucratic caltrops in the way of human ingenuity, and instead make America a place where people are free to create new inventions that make life easier and better for others (and yes, profit from those inventions). Let's stop giving quality education only to those who can afford it, and instead make America a place where both rich and poor are given the tools they need to forge better lives. Let's stop screaming at each other about differing beliefs, and instead make America a place where people remember how to listen to each other, and to disagree without being disagreeable. Let's stop creating nihilistic vileness masquerading as art, and instead make America a place where the positive and the uplifting are championed. Let's stop fiercely cocooning and waiting for "the government" or "someone else" to take care of people struggling with homelessness, addiction and depression, and instead make America a place where people know their neighbors and reach out to them in times of need. Let's stop spewing appalling filth at each other under the rubric of "telling it like it is," and instead make America a place where people use their freedom of speech to spread words of kindness, gentleness, honesty and loving concern for their fellow man. And let's stop pretending there's nothing we can do about the creeping rise of tyranny, and instead make America a place of such moral strength that anyone spewing this kind of patent nonsense cannot even find a toehold.
Although Alexis de Tocqueville never actually said it (really, look it up!), I believe in the basic truth of the observation often attributed to him: that America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great. If there are those who now believe America needs to be made "great again," then America must first make an effort to be good again. And that isn't a feat that can be accomplished by electing a single strongman or -woman to the highest office in the land. It begins with public virtue -- the individual choice to support one's society through acts of kindness and selflessness -- and builds from there. You don't have to wait for the elections; you don't have to wait at all. Just pick something positive to do, and start now.