It seems there are some people who profess to love America the most and yet can be the least tolerant of its diversity, the DNA of the country. And then there are the incessant critics that never seem to allow that the most diverse country in the world gets things right many times. (Comparing, say, Norway to the States is misguided. Norway has 5,000,00 in population to 320,000,000 in the United States and limited diversity with less than 10% of its population being non-white and 85% Christian.) Still, there are more questions than ever in trying to define America, as captured well by Maureen Dowd in The New York Times.
As I’m not sure our myopia was any more extreme than others in the past, it was easy for Americans to think of the world as America-based. Part of this was we didn’t get outside our borders enough and another part was the reality of just how much influence the country had economically and culturally. The former, among the young, has been greatly reduced with a threefold increase over the past two decades in students studying abroad and in more countries than ever. The latter hasn’t so much faded as has been joined by others. For instance, even the most novice of investors got to know about the BRIC countries years ago and today could easily be customers of South Korea mega-brands such as Samsung and Hyundai.
But emotionally it can feel like we’ve lost our way. We can point to the faltering education of the masses, fewer and fewer children having two parents actively involved in their lives, a staggering stifling of real income for the vast majority of Americans, an infrastructure needing wise investment for future growth being blocked by political gridlock in Washington and an environment in at least some towns where children have to grow up in a reality of fear and suspicion as gun-toting adults roam the streets and attend church services.
But here are some bright spots. This first one is setting the bar rather low, still…unlike some countires in Europe, we haven’t come close to electing any neo-Nazis. If you’re under thirty, you likely never notice race, ethnicity or sexual preference in some prejudicial manner. Our universities are still the very best in the world. Some local and state governments have found ways to be party-blind and actually get things done. Think Charleston, South Carolina and South Dakota. And possibly, we’re good at self-reflection and then self-correction. Possibly.