Thursday, June 8, 2017

Going in circles

There is a lot of talk of “America First” these days. Oddly enough, it comes from both ends of the political spectrum currently allowed in the US. It is the rally cry for the Trump / Republican / Religious Right coalition. Their view of the “America” that should be “first” is restricted to, well, just themselves. But it still has that hint of patriotic, Red, White, and Blue, apple pie smell about it. Somehow it sounds good, playing to that tribal part of each of us, and a lot of people who think of themselves as the “true” patriots are signing on without reservation.

Via Giphy
The Democratic rally cry for “America First” is that Republicans should count the good of the country as more important than what might be (temporarily) good according to Republican ideology. As such, it would seem that the Democrats have concluded that they are the “true” patriots, that Trump and the Religious Right are simply incapable of caring about anything but themselves, and are hoping that the Republican part of the coalition is large enough to thwart the worst excesses of Trump and his believers.

What the Democrats don't say out loud is that their version of “America First” helps bring them back from the wilderness of political power; thus allowing their particular views of corporate, military, and religious power to rule, as opposed to the Republican version of corporate, military, and religious power.

“America First” does mean slightly different things to each, but the general sentiment is much the same. To each, “America” is the only thing that matters. Both agree that “first” includes the largest and most fearsome military. It means an economic system that dominates the world, while being dominated by corporate interests. Both are big supporters of a surveillance state for common citizens and top secret status for any of their own activities. This is not to suggest that the two groups are identical. Clearly, if one is a minority, female, gay, trapped in poverty, or struggling to manage a life-threatening physical issue, one side's talk is less hostile than the other. “Less hostile” though, isn't really much of a choice.

Both Right and Left also claim to be “forward” (while insisting the opposition is “back”) which has, in effect, reduced American politics to a single dimension. Both parties and all of our media are dedicated to making sure none of us starts to wonder if a single dimension is all there is to work with. After all, “left” or “right” is not the same as forward. Go left or right and all that one gets is a circle. And really, women's rights, civil rights, white supremacy, fascism, dictatorships, war, poverty, pollution...haven't we done this already?

And “forward” is not the same as “up”.

Maybe the only real hope we have is for someone with some influence to come along and get us all to stop talking about “America First”. We could put “first” some of the things we keep walking around in circles; democracy, human/civil/women's rights, maybe the environment. At least we would be moving forward, even if that isn't really up. After all, treating all human beings as human beings is barely moving forward, with not much “up”. Nor is caring for the only environment we have ever known (or seen) that can support human life and civilization. “Gee, we didn't kill ourselves off completely,” is pretty much admitting that the best we have been able to do is not go backward.

I think the cosmos has left us an open door for going up as well, by putting facts, knowledge, understanding, or (my favorite) wisdom first. That looks to be a bridge too far for America. We can't even stop walking in circles. But there are a few indications that some of the rest of the human family is starting to understand. Nearly 95% of the world's population is part of the Paris Climate accord, with the 20% living in China now the acknowledged leader of those efforts. No matter what one might think of the details of that agreement, 95% of the planet cooperating on anything is remarkable. One might even hope – just a little maybe – such cooperation becomes more common, encompassing things like trade disagreements and boarder disputes. It might even lessen, even if only slightly, the chances of nations tossing nukes at each other.

“America First”... What it really means is the more we look inward, only to ourselves, the less we matter to the history of the whole human family. And, in a way, the less we matter to ourselves. Already “America First”, regardless of who is using the words, includes only some small slice of Americans, and never includes Americans who tend to see themselves as “humans first” or citizens of the world.

Which, in my experience, includes a pretty large slice of the cruiser community. Not a surprise given that a lot of us spend months, if not years, at a time living in the world at large. One need not get too far from these shores to get far, far away from the idea that America is the only country that really matters. It is actually a bit startling, and enjoyable, to spend time in a nation that isn't full of itself, that doesn't expect, demand, or assume that the world rotates around its borders. Even those who think that they live in the “best” place (a pretty common view of the Bahamians I've met) don't reflect the hubris and self centered attitude that is so much a part of America's media and government. I am still clinging to the hope that Americans, as a group, are better people than we look at the moment. Unfortunately, I have had to concede to the idea that a people don't get the best government they deserve, but the worst government they will tolerate.

America will never be first (or, depending on your view of history, first again) until being either American or first isn't that important. After all, being American (for most of us anyway) is simply a matter of birth. We have always been Americans and likely (hopefully) always will be. This is the community we know, the land we have traveled, and where we have family and friends. Like all nations, America has a checkered history. We share that history, good and bad. It is also one, for the most part, for which none of us bears any responsibility. America, with all of its flaws and all of its glories, was gifted to us. We pass the gift along, adding our little bit as it passes through our hands.

The best chance of making it a good bit comes from looking out, not in; forward, not left or right. And if we want to make it a really good bit, we need to look up.

What we decide is “first” will make (or unmake) the America we pass along to the next generation.


G4DYR said...

I very much enjoy reading your sailing blog and read it almost every day.
However, maybe you should consider if this is the place to voice your own political feelings.


Roy Page

Deb said...

@ Roy, I'm really glad you enjoy reading the blog and hope that it offers something to you that is beneficial. One of the reasons that we've never accepted any sponsorship money on the blog is that we don't want anyone else telling us what we can and cannot write here. The blog is primarily a journal for us, one to help us remember the journey when we're too old to do it anymore. That it benefits others, and that they see fit to share it, is a wonderful side benefit and one that humbles me. Tj will continue to post his political ramblings because it is a part of who he is and it becomes a bigger part of his life since we're sitting on a dock at the moment working and not cruising. I've taken care to label all posts on the blog, and if you see a post labeled Politics you can just skip it and wait for the next post.

Thanks for your input and the gracious wording of it. We do appreciate the feelings of those who read here.

Stuart McCullough said...

Keep on doing what you do!

When people like you two, completely reject convention and live a wandering life on the oceans, it inevitably creates a fascinating perspective on how the rest of us pursue our daily lives.

I enjoy your musing on politics and contemporary life just as much as any description of the intricacies of changing a water meter.

G4DYR said...

Thanks Deb,

Your input is appreciated on the subject of Politics.
I will watch out for the Labels posts ..... :-)

When you have nothing more important to do ..............
You can check out ourselves by going to our YouTube channel
Here is documented in video the stuff we do as a family.

BTW was TJ a Commercial Pilot?


Roy Page

Deb said...

@ Roy - Yes, The had a long interesting career in the cockpit that ended as a corporate pilot for a casino company. Adapting to life at six knots has been challenging.