There is an error in how our country is seen today. We appear to be a nation of angry, bigoted, mean-spirited, violent people. The picture is one of weakness and ingratitude, of people holding endless grudges, of crooked cops killing minorities, of shallow selfish Christians demanding everyone obey their beliefs, of incompetent predatory politicians desecrating democracy.
It’s true; the country has its fair share of these people. And the dishonorable behavior and the loud voices of all of them overwhelm the good Americans everywhere.
We are not well represented to the world.
However, every day decent Americans do their jobs honestly, competently, and well. They care for their families. They follow the law. They respect the diversity of our country. They get along with their neighbors. They worship regularly and attempt to live by their beliefs; they don’t cram them down the throats of others or assume they alone own God. They are concerned about the environment and appreciate the beauty of the earth.
These good Americans are not caught up in financial schemes that cheat people out of their savings or their retirement. They are not driven by destructive addictions and urges they cannot or will not control. They are not taken in by simplistic slogans, quick fix solutions, and empty promises. They are thoughtful, sensible people. They think. They consider. They make their own choices.
These Americans bear their suffering, whatever form it may take, courageously and reasonably. They don’t blame; they accept responsibility. They know laughter and surprise and they share compassion and praise. They show poise in difficulty. There is refinement and gentleness in their presence; a quiet reserve; a humility that says they have been through some things and they have learned from them.
These people are not afraid to share their emotions. They are affectionate and loving. They are generous and considerate. They are civil and understand the meaning of polite manners and work to get along with all people. They tip wait staff well. They smile at children. They are not threatened by the old and the sick and those with special needs. They reach out. They take in. They enjoy. And when they hurt they weep.
These good Americans are not weak. They are not pushovers. They will defend themselves and those they love. They are not menaced by bullies. They refuse the barking orders of manipulators and liars and pretenders. They are not violent or rude or ungracious. But they will stand their ground. And they are not to be dismissed.
Irish playwright and novelist Sebastian Barry has written, “The world is not full of betrayers, it is full of people with decent motives and a full desire to do right by those who know them and love them. This is a little-known truth, but I think it is a truth nonetheless. Empirically, from all the years of my work, I would attest to that. I know it is a miraculous conclusion, but there it is…We are not wolves, but lambs astonished in the margins of the fields by sunlight and summer.”
Don’t fall for the false representation given of us as a people today. We Americans possess within us the inner resources to create, to achieve, to relish and to enjoy a society thriving and healthy, growing and productive, decent and greathearted. We have never lost that capacity. We have it now. We just have to celebrate it.