Once upon a time there was an America people believed in. Like most things people believe in, part of the power of the belief was based on myth.
Myths are stories that don’t have to be factual to be true. Consider the myth of George Washington and the cherry tree, for example.
The anecdote—little George confessing to chopping down his father’s cherry tree—may or may not be factual, but the truth it conveys—that we consider honesty a virtue, especially in our leaders—has endured for centuries.
Today, too many Americans have lost their way, including those who consider George Washington yet another symbol of white male privilege as well as those who see white male privilege as the founding intention of the nation. Neither view is even remotely correct, yet both have captivated too many believers.
The truth is that Washington’s integrity transcends eras and tendentious distortions.
Another truth is that Thomas Jefferson’s belief that, “all men are created equal,” transcends the contradictions of slavery, our history of discrimination based on race, gender, or religion, and even the brute favoritism of economic inequity.
That belief, that fundamental theme of our nation’s great mythology, that “proposition” has animated the American project from Washington’s inauguration through the Civil War and Suffragist Movement, into and beyond the Great Depression, and even past the Civil Rights Movement.
But there has always been opposition. There have always been those who prefer an America founded on the principles of property, wealth, power and exclusion.
Today, all three branches of the American Republic are dominated by wealth. Over the years, through a massive propaganda campaign waged by those who would own our government, we’ve seen justice turned upside down and the law made a commodity.
We’ve seen freedom of speech made subject to the rules of the marketplace, and the marketplace become an arena of exclusion. But our government was not meant to be exclusive; it was meant to provide, “justice for all.” It was meant to be a government, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
And only the truth will enable us to regain our government as it was meant to be—a government for the people. When our leaders routinely lie, not once in a while, not occasionally, but routinely, we lose our sovereignty. We become a people who are ruled, not governed.
There have always been times when the American people must exercise their sovereignty. Times when they must look to the great heroes of the American myth and transform that myth into the truth it contains. We are now at such a time.
We need new leaders. We need a new government. We need to find our way back to the virtues that made us the envy of the world. We need to heed the wisdom of another of our great Americans, Theodore Roosevelt, who said, “It is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”
Roosevelt also said, “To befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of today.”
Today, our civic duty is to obey the precepts of our great leaders, to reject the “unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics,” and return government to the people. Vote for change. Vote for America.
Richard Anderson says
I am particularly inspired by your …….”Another truth is that Thomas Jefferson’s belief that, “all men are created equal,” transcends the contradictions of slavery, our history of discrimination based on race, gender, or religion, and even the brute favoritism of economic inequity.”
It helps me realize that although Jefferson clearly did not think that black men were men, or that women too would qualify for that equality some day, he spoke a mythic truth that transcended both himself and the elite society that formed our Constitution.
Excellent article Eric. Of course voting is the final act of a long process of supporting candidates that truly represent all stakeholders in their districts, not just the ones with deep pockets.
We as citizens MUST be involved in our communities to insure we nurture good people to run for public office to be servants of the community and not for personal gain. This is also a part of our civic responsibility.
Wonderful article. Is that Pam and Josh – picture from primary voting?
Eric Caine says
Yes, Colleen. Pam and Josh.
Superb work, Eric.
The most advertised foods and beverages in America are the most consumed foods and beverages in America. The projected amount spent on the midterm elections could buy every single American a Happy Meal (including a drink) for the next six years.
I sound like such a melodramatic dope, but I really hope people dig deep and feel – as you point out so well – the fireside instincts that we all have in common rather than the cheap, quick fix of Cheetos and Bud Light all that money bought on both sides.
In the meantime, I’m practicing “O Canada.”
John Wagner says
Superb, succinct essay. Well done, Eric.
Meredith Jones Watts says
You are doing God’s work, Eric. Those of us who have been donating, working, and praying for Josh’s success in District 10 are grateful.
ALFREDO VEA JR. says
remember those a priori statements with which the Greek philosophers began their treatises: It is better to be healthy than sick.? It is better that more eat than fewer. Despite what is being spewed about today, there is a direction to human progress and humanism. Though so many things distract and blind our fickle minds, we all know that direction.
Loved your essay, Eric.
Eric Caine says
Tu hermano. Always.
Ken Fess says
Loved the essay Eric! I would only hope that the nation’s voters not only go to the polls, but vote thoughtfully, predicated on being informed of the candidate’s true record and beliefs, rather than his or her party affiliation and the inexcusable lying campaign ads. You have clearly enhanced the meaning of truth. Thanks!
(Very old friend from HS days)
Judith Beery says
I especially liked your point about being ruled as opposed to being governed.
With my connections to Germany, this all feels like an most unwelcome re-cycle
in the history of Western Civilization, which term itself seems quite out of date now.
Judith Beery, Albuquerque
David Troutman says
Good essay. Every word.