Americans used to be dreamers. But we did more than just dream, we acted.
We dreamed of building a canal connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific. And did it.
We dreamed of a railway across the entire country. And did it.
We dreamed of a GI bill to offer some compensation for the sacrifice of World War II. And did it.
We dreamed of building the most advanced scientific research center in the world. And did it.
We dreamed of going to the moon. And did it.
We dreamed many things once thought impossible and turned them into a reality.
To borrow, and alter a bit, the line from Anne Hathaway’s lyrics in I Dreamed a Dream,
“We dreamed a dream in times gone by…”
It would seem now we no longer dream of things we can accomplish but instead retreat into fear from things we don’t understand and the winds of change. Like it or not, this is a global community in which we play an important, but not exclusively dominant, role.
Instead of focusing our efforts on what we can do, we focus on what we fear we cannot do. This mantra of making America great again misses the point of what American greatness is. It is our willingness to lead by example, not protect ourselves at all costs. To take risks for the greater good, not insulate ourselves from failure.
We used to be the country that learned from mistakes and turned them into success.
George Bernard Shaw wrote several apropos lines. “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.“ I wonder what historians will say about this time in America. Will it reflect the best in us or the worst?
Shaw also wrote, “You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were, and I say “Why not?”
Why not find a way to offer a path to citizenship for innocent individuals who wish to do nothing more than embrace what for many is the only country they’ve ever known?
Why not find a way ensure every single American has access to the best healthcare in the world without the threat of financial ruin?
Why not pursue every available diplomatic solution to international problems before resorting to a military option?
Why not pursue green energy and reduce the undeniable impact of human activity on Climate Change? Even the Secretary of Defense, James “Mad Dog” Mattis when he was an active duty Marine recognized the threat to national security Climate change posed. He begged for an alternative to his armored forces being tethered to their fuel supply, primarily for strategic purposes of course, but coupled with the Defense Department’s long-held recognition of the threat of Climate Change.
If spending twenty-five billion dollars of American taxpayer money on a wall (with no contributions from Mexico as promised) makes you feel better, then have at it. I think it may be a wall ultimately proven ineffective.
I think, given the expertise and competence within the criminal justice system, the experience and input from the border states who’ve lived with the problem, and some rigid deportation enforcement for illegal aliens who commit crimes, the same amount of money could be spent in more efficient ways.
We Americans are dreamers. Those of us lucky enough to be born here often forget the fortunes of birth. Those who dream to come here, or remain here, may see things in a much different light.
But let me be clear about one thing, a path to citizenship reflects the best American has to offer. It is not unconditional. Commision of a crime, no matter how trivial it may be perceived, should negatively affect your chances. Serious crimes negate it entirely.
Break the law, leave the country, or we will show you the way out if you refuse.
The promise of America remains a bright beacon. One we should strive to preserve. We all have a responsibility to that promise.
In the words of Robert Frost,
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Frost may have been talking about death, but these promises are our daily efforts to fight for what we believe in and against those who would seek to return America to darker times of racial divide and isolationism. To live a life in pursuit of one’s ideals is a life well-lived.
The night of the President’s State of the Union, the line I remember most is this.
“Politicians may be judged by the promises they make, America is judged by the promises we keep.” Here’s a hint, he didn’t say it.
Once again we as a country have reached a point where the torch must be passed to a new generation. New ideas, new dreams, new goals, not some foggy clouded memories of former greatness. America doesn’t need to be great again; we never stopped being great in the first place.
A former Vice President once said his father told him that this country was so big, so strong, so resilient that no President could ever do permanent harm. Let’s hope he was right.