One thing I hear routinely from people of all political stripes is how disappointed they are in the United States of America. The nonstop drumbeat of negativity dominates the news, the politics and of course, the social media. The outrage and fury emanating from people who may or may not contribute to charity, work for political candidates they believe in, or volunteer their time but obsessively read social media pieces reinforcing their own views leads to an upward racket of disgust and certitude that the country is going to hell.
I, on the other hand, note that we have increasing civil rights and cultural sensitivity for protecting vulnerable groups; that we see inner cities once abandoned coming to life with business, stores and residents; that violent crime is down dramatically. We have a consensus that certain crimes that used to be so shameful to the victims such as child sexual abuse and domestic violence that no one discussed them are now routinely prosecuted. I see a nation in which the African American experience of fear of law enforcement is now widely understood among white Americans because of video cell phones. I see powerful women everywhere, such that they are now powerful people, and not simply examples of their gender. I see low unemployment and people coming off of disability to find jobs. I see many schools that work; the parents, kids, teachers, coaches, and fans working together to build community.
I will skip in this blog the things that worry or concern me the most about our country. It’s not the season for it, and I am so reluctant to become one of the angry, anxious, complaining people I was harping about above. I try to do things, little things really, that make our world slightly better, and to learn more about what I can do where I remain ignorant. And I think most Americans are like me, appreciating the gifts we have to live in this country and this time of relative prosperity and peace.
I also continue to pay attention to the rest of the world. And there, I find joy in cultures older than our own, rich with traditions of architecture, music, cuisine, rituals and celebrations in other languages. But I also see in other countries a yearning for the freedom and rule of law that we hold dear.
As a lawyer, I never forget that I live in a place in which we all work to ensure that all of us determine what the law is, through voting and through sitting in juries, and participating in political speech. I know that the words of the constitution mean nothing if Americans aren’t willing to insist that our government follow it.
And every so often I see a story that stirs me to remark how different we are from other powerful countries. This story, “Male Chinese ‘Relatives’ Assigned to Uyghur Homes Co-Sleep With Female ‘Hosts’, makes me so sad. But it also makes me realize that even in our country that treats its criminals, and its undocumented immigrants in ways that disturb, we don’t do what the Chinese do to its Muslim minority group. It’s almost too fantastically awful to believe. They bring in “ideologically correct“ men to sleep in the homes of families where the men who used to live have been taken to detention camps, and sometimes those men share the beds of the vulnerable women.
We have our share of problems. But we still have a long way we could fall. Let’s appreciate what we have and strive to do better in 2020. What unites us is much greater than what divides us.