Remember what it was like to go through an identity crisis in your younger life? Fun, eh? Not so much. How did you resolve who the real “you” is? What changes for the better did you make? What good things about yourself did you or someone close to you remind you of as you worked through your issues?
American, we are in an identity crisis. It’s a daily battering ram pressing on all sides of how bad our country is. A crisis generally involves an inventory of the good, the bad, and the ugly, only to come out on the other side with a deeper understanding of who you are and where you are going.
We have all heard how “bad” our country is, but wait a minute. Where is the good about America? Who is chatting up that part of our history? I searched to find what good America has done since its inception in 1776 (note: America did not begin in 1619. Its birthday is July 4, 1776).
I came across an article from 1959 (that’s not a typo LOL) in The Atlantic, linked at the end of this article. It’s called “Our Ten Contributions to Civilization.” (Please, no additional links, unless you are the author or admin of this page). I was instantly captivated by the logic, the readability, and the intellect behind this article. Let’s review those ten contributions that America has made to civilization up until 1959. These happened before the space race or the inventions that developed from space frontier exploration. They precede advancements in technology in military, science, industry, global development, etc.
1. The Right of Revolution — The Declaration of Independence asserts that Civil government may be altered or abolished when it violates the self-evident truths outlined in the Declaration. This, only after “a long series of abuses and usurpations.” So, America didn’t just philosophize about freedom. We took action to gain the right to be “Free and Independent States.”
2. The Principle of Federalism- The United States developed a system of self – governing states that had a federal government powerful enough to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare.” The Anti-Federalists and the Federalists had some rousing debates over the issue, especially when the Articles of Confederation proved too loose to govern.
3. The Consent of the Governed- Our forefathers rejected totalitarianism, monarchy, aristocracy, pure democracy, theocracy, military dictatorship, etc. in favor of “We the People” governing ourselves. Our government only operates by our consent, “one which should rule by counting heads instead of breaking them.” America contributed to the principle of self-government to the world.
4. The Status of Women- America has elevated the woman. She has always had more opportunities to advocate for causes and given respect for her achievements than in many other countries. When American women want more recognition or opportunities, they can make their case in a free society.
5. “The Melting Pot” America has welcomed people from all over the globe into her land. Traditionally, those coming from other countries assimilated into our society, leaving the old country behind and embracing Americanism. “Those things that unite people are greater than those that divide them.” People to this day still want to live here. We again welcome foreigners under legal immigration law.
The period of slavery must be acknowledged as a failure. America was not living up to the Declaration of Independence. We must recognize those Americans who saw a wrong and waged war on each other in 1861-65 rather than live in the hypocrisy of the very ideals America professes.
6. The Freedom of Worship- America brought a new idea to the world when it denounced any national religion. There is no national church here. Americans believe that their faith is a personal matter between them and their God. The atheist, agnostic, and religious live side by side on the same city block.
7. The Public School- Americans recognized the need to have a literate populace for We the People to engage in self-government. Education was made available to all, not just to the wealthy.
8. Voluntary Giving- Americans have a history of helping others. Our generosity is well-known and is in our DNA. We have helped each other, and we have helped the world many times over in our history.
9. Technology— This 1959 article lists the following achievements:” lightning rod, the cotton gin, the steamboat, the metal plow, the harvester, vulcanized rubber, the sewing machine, the telegraph, the telephone, and the electric light, among others.” Since 1959, we can add all of the inventions and achievements made since the Space Race, like artificial limbs, laser eye surgery, solar technology, insulin pump, vacuum technology, better tires, wireless technology, and so much more. Can you name more inventions Americans have contributed to the betterment of the globe? What about advancements in agriculture?
10. Evolutionary Progress- Americans have overcome divisions, released people from backbreaking work through inventions, developed processes to advance humankind forward, and allowed individuality.
In many of these areas, America has stepped backward from where we were in these areas 61 years ago. We are at a crossroads. Will we proceed on a trajectory up and to the right? We’ll need to confirm our identity as the land of the free and the home of the brave. We’ll need to affirm our heritage of excellence, peace through strength, rugged individualism, self-government, federalism, and “a nation of laws, not men.” America needs to rediscover the beauty in our Founding documents through careful study. We need to inventory the good again, not just the bad, and the ugly if we want to come out on the other side with a deeper understanding of who we are. It starts with you and me.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.??
Link to The Atlantic article: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1959/03/our-ten-contributions-to-civilization/305144/?utm_source=share&utm_campaign=share