Make America GOOD Again

Hello America! – I am writing to you on this special day to ask you to put down your pens and your swords for a moment and to reflect upon the country and world you want to live in. I am not writing you today as a liberal or a conservative, rich or poor, strong or weak… just American. Perhaps a little vulnerable, but just American. And right now, pardon my discretion, I am not liking the country I live in. I love this country, deeply, but at this very moment I don’t like it. We have become mean and thoughtless on a scale never before seen, we are talking past each other, on social media, trying to score points by backhanding others we don’t agree with, and have lost our ability to listen – to truly listen to each other. All at a time when there has never been more at stake, and never a time where our unity would serve us more.
So much of what I see and hear on social media postings, and in the news, and in living rooms and coffee shops is based in fear. Fear that the government is going to take away my health care, my guns, my social security, my rights to marriage equality, my clean drinking water, or my child’s education or future away.
Yes, all of this is on the table, and we need to talk about it, but fueling those genuine fears beyond a reasonable threshold of reality is not only inhumane but profoundly destructive. Using our fellow American’s fear as a tool to wield over them to push for compliance with our objectives is short sighted, erodes our legitimacy, and I think may destroy a unique opportunity we have to band together for the good of our country. It is not just the politicians and those who campaign for them that are guilty of this. Our day-to-day interpersonal interactions have become untethered, and disconnected like there are no actual human beings across from us, or on the other end of the line, or reading your words on their social media account. It is a problem of scale, of choosing the right tool to get the job done.

– We are all guilty of hyperbole when a sober self-reflective rebuttal would do.
– We are all guilty of shouting when a courageous, chin-up, square-shouldered response would do.
– We are all guilty of escalating, and screaming because we are rightly scared and confused as very little of what we read or hear seems true or right – and as human beings we want to be OK and piece together a narrative that makes sense for us and our families. And we have an innate need to be heard.

Where does this lead us? At some point the cacophony proves too great and, as we have seen, we are reduced to consuming the bit sized bumper sticker slogans that our candidates, and advocacy organizations, and media feed us. And we repeat them and yield them as a club until we have laid waste to everything slightly threatening or even challenging around us. And after the smoke settles, we retreat to our echo chambers for self-affirmation and the soothing words of those that agree with us that confirm how evil and stupid and crazy “the other” is out there.

Unfortunately, all of this venomous activity depletes all of the oxygen, and poisons the wells of creativity and of civic-minded participation. We’ve gotten to an alien level of toxicity where nothing can survive – certainly not sincerity, or nuance, or new ideas.
To bring it down to the most common denominator: I think our problem is that we are not taking care of each other. Not taking care of our common spaces like the water cooler at work, and social media and our mainstream media. We are not being good enough stewards of those spaces and we are not demanding enough of others to do the same.

To the point, I think that social media is a valuable space, a potential tool for very good things, and one that we should work to defend and nurture. What do I mean by this? There was a concept brought forward by a guy named William Lloyd back in the 1800s and he noticed that when everyone acts independently according to their own self interest, that they behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource through their collective action. This became an economic theory called “The Tragedy of the Commons”. It is very likely that we all need to find a way to abandon the scorched earth tactics that have driven so much Internet communication over the last several years.

Social media is a tool that can be used for good or evil plain and simple and I happen to believe that we can flip the script, tap into our better nature, and through collective action make it a habitable place again. As one of the primary place where so many Americans congregate, I think it is imperative that we figure out a way to make it a habitable place again.
Today many of you, collectively perhaps millions of you, were out marching America’s streets to fight for the things that are important to us. There is nothing more American, and I applaud this. It is critical for our voices to be heard. But it is also critical for us to listen and mend fences and be humble. It is critical for us not to have to be “right” all the time. In fact I think there is much to be gained by pro-actively putting down the megaphone, turning on your ears as we ask our elementary school children to do, and sincerely ask others to talk to us and make their case for the things that are important to them. Now that does not mean that you should ever suffer hate or indignity, but it does mean that you should hear out the other side. You may discover that, unbeknownst to you, they may feel that they have been treated with hate or indignity.

I would like for us to fight to Make America GOOD Again – decent, and kind, and humble, and industrious, and hard working, embracing, supportive and above all reasonable. And that means all of us. And let’s start with the space we all share called “social media”.

I am sincerely afraid that some of our darkest days are potentially around the corner – and I have been a politically aware American through the Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton, GW Bush, and Obama years. I am not going to get into the specifics of why I think this is so – there has been enough of that (and in some cases amplified by me) over the last year. I am a grown man telling you that I am scared. And I know that I am not alone. And fear unchecked and unresolved is most unkind. It begets anger. And anger causes people to lash out, often unreasonably, and I think that I have seen enough lashing out to last me a lifetime.

What I would ask of you, and I know I risk ridicule by making this request, is to respond to me (this post lives on my Facebook page – and say “Brad, it’s going to be OK. I’ve got your back and we are going to MAKE AMERICA GOOD AGAIN”. I’d like to hear it from everyone, but especially from the Trump supporters. For you guys, it is your moment to shine and show us your better nature and to lead the rest of us and show us how we can get to greatness through goodness.

So humbly I ask that the response to this letter is not snarky one liners, or a dismissive attempt to put points on the board, rather I hope you have heard me and are willing to extend a hand to me as a man, a father, a husband, a hard working fellow American: “Brad, it’s going to be OK. I’ve got your back and we are going to make America GOOD again.” And if you ask that of me, I will make that same pledge to you.

And my final request would be that you extend this decency to one person you have, perhaps inadvertently, cut with your words in person or on social media. I would ask that you reach out to the last person you traded barbs with and say “Friend, it’s going to be OK. I’ve got your back and we are going to make American GOOD again.”

Thank you for your precious minutes, for indulging me, and please enjoy the waning moments of this holiday with your loved ones and in the spirit of love, empowerment and reconciliation that was the hallmark of Dr. Kings life.

12 thoughts on “Make America GOOD Again”

  1. But.
    It has been said that Democrats (or the Left or liberals) have been bringing books to a knife fight…and have been soundly trounced…by such things as gerrymandering, voter intimidation, control of the courts, fear-mongering, etc.
    There's an insightful and incisive piece in the NYTimes:
    In it, James Rutenberg says of Trump's news conference
    "1. Mr. Trump remains a master media manipulator who used his first news briefing since July to expertly delegitimize the news media and make it the story rather than the chaotic swirl of ethical questions that engulf his transition.
    2. The news media remains an unwitting accomplice in its own diminishment as it fails to get a handle on how to cover this new and wholly unprecedented president.
    It better figure things out, fast, because it has found itself at the edge of the cliff. And our still-functioning (fingers crossed) democracy needs it to stay on the right side of the drop."

    Mr. Rowe, I'd like to be on the same page with you. But you are wanting to assume good will where there may be none, nor any wish to honestly deal with the inconvenience of facts and realities. Trump's Art of the Deal is all about ill will, and he lives in a Ptolemaic universe where everything is defined by his wants, insecurities and narcissism. Similarly, much of the GOP leadership is either corrupt or trying to bend the universe to fit their beliefs, like Ryan's plans that have magic asterisks everywhere, or the states of Kansas and Michigan that are failing testbeds for all sorts of Procrustean economic schemes.

    I wish it weren't so….

    1. Excellent start, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
      My main concern is potential human rights violations that will be committed in my name as Trump introduces the use of racial profiling, religious profiling and mass deportations, as he promised repeatedly throughout his campaign.

  2. The one, vocal Trump supporter in my Facebook feed has just realized that the recent vote to repeal the ACA will mean that she will no longer be able to provide health insurance for her disabled son if it is implemented. I am sharing her posts on this topic in support, without any "I told you so's", because I am a decent human being. But, I have no illusions – she wouldn't do the same for me. This is not a "both sides do it" situation.

  3. Politically aware since Nixon, I've seen this country survive and even flourish under a lot of truly bad government. It's going to be alright, Mr. Rowe. Like my grandmother always said, this too shall pass. Things are never as good or as bad as they seem. We, the people, collectively, are a lot stronger than our government. This is by design, and we should strive to keep it that way.

    We've got each other's backs: Where the government's safety net wears holes large enough for our fellow man to fall through, our churches and fraternal organizations work together to fill them, even though we often have to fight against government to do so, like politicians who insist we must have a government permit and official inspectors in order to offer free meals to the homeless. When the government says it's a slap-on-the-wrist infraction or misdemeanor to occupy a very busy Wall street in protest while overcharging others with a slew of felonies for occupying an otherwise unoccupied bird sanctuary for the same purpose, we exercise the power of jury nullification. While the all-powerful federal government persists in holding a low side-effect non-toxic natural herbal remedy in schedule 1 against all evidence to the contrary, we work together at the grass-roots level to legalize it state by state. We the people are the government, so we can work around it where we need to. We endeavor to persevere, and I intend to keep on doing just that.

    Thank you for this post and its friendly reminder that the collective GOOD starts with and depends upon our individual selves and our goodwill towards each other. The government can steal and consolidate our power for itself only by dividing us. Let us be wary of this and the corrupting influence of concentrated power. May we all join Brad Rowe in saying “Friend, it’s going to be OK. I’ve got your back and we are going to make American GOOD again.”

    1. Maybe YOU will be fine. Actually, I will be fine too. We live in communities wealthy enough to fill in the gaps. But our experience is not universal. To the contrary, we are unusually fortunate. Millions of Americans are less fortunate. Just the repeal of the ACA is likely to lead to the deaths of thousands. If you, like me, are among the people who will still have healthcare, you're in no position to lecture people who will lose theirs about "being good". If you, like me, aren't going to be targeted in the significant increase of hate crimes against racial and religious minorities, your calls to "be good" sound a lot like "sit down, shut up and stop making me uncomfortable".

    2. "Where the government's safety net wears holes large enough for our fellow man to fall through, our churches and fraternal organizations work together to fill them,"

      Let's try a test case. If you're a member of a house of worship of some sort–or if there's one in your vicinity– how many individuals' health care costs are being entirely borne (and for how many years) by the house of worship? For how many individuals has the house of worship committed to fully or substantially support their health care over a period of years? How many non-member children's nutritional needs are being supplied or regularly supplemented over a period of time and to a significant degree by your house of worship? Same question for your fraternal organization or any fraternal organization in your vicinity.

      "even though we often have to fight against government to do so, like politicians who insist we must have a government permit and official inspectors in order to offer free meals to the homeless."

      There's a reason for government regulation on food. If you talk to organizations that collect food for or serve food to needy families, you'll find that the traditional canned food drives tend to get whatever's in the back of someone's pantry, often out of date and sometimes dangerous. Even if the food is good when donated, food storage is an issue. Just because you're homeless or hungry doesn't mean you should get food poisoning. You'll notice clothing drives, by contrast, don't tend to attract government regulation.

      1. I take it you've never been homeless. You want me to worry about small-scale charitable food poisoning on behalf of someone whose alternative food source might likely be a dumpster? I would never hesitate for a moment to eat anything offered at a church, vfw hall or elks lodge, I've done it countless times. Should I be terrified of attending a pot-luck dinner sans government food inspectors? How far should this go? How about accepting a neighbor's invitation to dinner? What if they serve whatever's in the back of their pantry, perhaps out of date or maybe dangerous? Even if the food was good when they bought it, food storage is an issue. Just because I'm hungry doesn't mean I should get food poisoning. Is this a situation that should attract government regulation?

        1. Just because I'm hungry doesn't mean I should get food poisoning. Is this a situation that should attract government regulation?

          I think your last two lines sum it up nicely. The homeless receiving food from not for profits should have the same protections as people eating in restaurants because they deserve the same protections from food poisoning as everyone else. One can argue about whether or not certain jurisdictions have standards that are too onerous (no doubt there are some that do). However, some regulation is needed to guarantee food safety.
          The line about eating in other people's homes is just silly. Health issues will arise in large scale food productions which are not issues in home situations. Moreover, people running businesses and not for profits are exempt from personal liability in part because they agree to such government oversight when they incorporate.

  4. "Where the government's safety net wears holes large enough for our fellow man to fall through, our churches and fraternal organizations work together to fill them, even though we often have to fight against government to do so"

    In my small town I have stopped going to the person w/o insurance cancer fundraisers because… it is never enough. Not even close. After you have been through a half dozen of these… those words I quote above ring very hollow.

  5. ."… the spirit of love, empowerment and reconciliation that was the hallmark of Dr. Kings life". Wasn't MLK rooted in a tougher reading of the Bible that also accepts the need for condemnation of falsehood and wrongdoing, for repentance from sin, and for witness to the point of martyrdom? Courtesy rather than insults is often the better way, for sure. But a great deal of Trump's policies and behaviour is simply unacceptable, and no negotiation on the point is possible.

    1. Also MLK:
      "First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

  6. I remember during the election asking if there was ever a point at which a presidential candidate would simply go too far. If, say, he used the N-word unapologetically. Surely, that would be enough for us to decry him as intolerable.

    Trump hasn't quite gone that far, but he's gone damn close. Until he begins acting like a serious, respectable person, I will continue to not take him – or his supporters seriously.

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