Underlying the negative news is a foundation of positive attributes that make our country special.
When writing opinion pieces, there is a tendency to focus upon our country’s problems. It’s easy to forget that people in the U.S. enjoy freedom, opportunities and prosperity unknown in much of the rest of the world.
Our way of life is continually challenged. It always has been. We look back at the past—the post-World War II years, for example, as a simpler, more prosperous “golden period of the American Dream.” But the 50s and early 60s had their challenges; social inequality, stifling conformity, environmental degradation. Mayberry has never really existed.
Still, I think it worthwhile to name a few of the aspects of life in this country that make it special. These are what we are all fighting to preserve.
1. Freedom of speech. I can write my opinion pieces. We can lobby Congress on behalf of our industry. We can protest, peacefully, in the streets. Satirical television shows are not censored.
2. The rule of law. Our legal system works. Miscarriages of justice are noteworthy because they are rare. Contracts are legally binding; this is a given that underpins our economy and society.
3. Tolerance for others. A leading historian has argued that the worst thing about America is our intolerance and the best thing about America is our tolerance for those whom we perceive to be different from us. It has been my experience, living and travelling throughout the country that most people are not as prejudiced as the press would have us believe.
4. Freedom of religion. There is no state-mandated religion. We espouse literally hundreds of faiths, denominations, and spiritual paths.
5. A robust economy. Although our economy expands and contracts it remains relatively healthy. This is partly due to an economic system that rewards hard work and innovation.
6. A stable banking system. Our banking system has been abused. But it still works well. We take for granted the ability to entrust our money to banks for safe-keeping.
7. Minority rights. My grandmother shocked me when she said women could not vote when she was a girl. I lived in the south before the civil rights movement. People have fought, for the most part peacefully, to provide everyone in our country with equal rights under the law since our country was founded. Although there is still much to be done on this front it remains a national priority.
8. A healthy environment. The U.S. has led the world in improving and protecting the environment. I think we all realize this is essential if we are going to preserve the quality of life that makes our country special.
None of our rights can be taken for granted and we, as Americans, do not do so.
It is, however, worthwhile to pause and reflect upon what we are working to preserve and improve.
Don Wallis has more than 40 years experience in residential and commercial construction, and land development. He also has a law degree and currently teaches Environmental Law at Santa Fe Community College.