What makes America great is not our endless preoccupation with liberty or freedom (those things are great, but they’re more effects than than they are causes).
It’s not our military force or our Constitution (impressive creations, perhaps, but still not the source of greatness).
It’s not our our radical inclusiveness or endless diversity (again, more of an outcome — though I must say I am very proud of those things when we do them right).
Like most things (true for organizations and leaders, for example), it’s the WHY that makes America great.
It is the underlying motivation of our founders — WHY this country exists, in the first place — that has made it a great place to live for many years.
At its core, America was founded on the idea that certain ways of treating other human beings are NOT OK. Our architects rebelled under a banner that said, “If people are not being treated rightly, it is up to us to speak up and change it.”
What makes America great is our fundamental passion to challenge the nature of societal entropy. It’s an internal fire that makes us stand up and shout, “THAT IS NOT OK!” — and then, even more importantly, to DO something to change it.
What makes America great is our desire to grow, to evolve, to become something better than we were. And because this started with our founders, this catalytic energy is somehow baked into our DNA.
To be sure, we make (and have made) our share of mistakes, but greatness isn’t defined by the fact that we do stupid things, but that we FIX them and don’t repeat them. That we now recognize the equality of different genders and races, for example, and that we’ve changed our systems to reflect this new way of thinking.
Why am I bringing all this up?
Because a moment very similar to 1776 is upon us again. But this time, the threat is not an oppressive country “out there,” but the institutional systems we built, right here.
At this very moment, far too Americans are suffering at the hands of a economic system that is tragically unjust and unfair. It is unsustainable at best and will be our complete undoing at worst.
It is NOT OK for incomes to be this disparate.
It is NOT OK for jobs to pay so much less than what people need to live.
It is NOT OK for 82% of our people to not be passionate about the work they do. (82%!?)
It is NOT OK for people to die making our gadgets (this may happen overseas, but these are our companies).
It is NOT OK.
As Americans, we have a duty to do something to change the status quo.
Those in power have no reason to change. But that is the very reason revolutions happen.
Will you stand up? Will you do something?
America is great today because a fiery group of rebels believed SO STRONGLY that they could create a better life that they went to war with the greatest empire on earth. I do not believe today’s revolution is one of violence, but it will take the same spirit.
Do we believe in a better life that much?
What will it take to upset you enough to do something?
P.S. Today marks the 43rd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. In honor of his life and activism, GOOD posted a terrific article today that is along the lines of this post. Check it out here.
“Celebrate, Remember A Year In The Life Of Friends” by Josh Allan Dykstra on November 30th, 2006
The Easiest Way To Get $#it Done by Josh Allan Dykstra on February 7th, 2011
Don’t Forget Your Green Apron by Josh Allan Dykstra on January 19th, 2006