American Greatness: Can We Redeem Ourselves?

 

“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” — Alexis de Tocqueville

This quote grabbed my attention because I realized that I may no longer agree with any of it. I know that Tocqueville is admired and celebrated, but I wonder if he could have foreseen what would happen to this country so many years later.

I do think in some ways we are, or at least were, an enlightened country. To me, enlightenment is not a steady state, but a process, and compared to the rest of the world, we were head and shoulders above the rest. We were known for our honoring freedom and opportunity; many who dreamt of coming to this country believed our streets were paved with gold. No other country could offer a life where a person could succeed through hard work and persistence.

Yet I wonder if we can assert that we are the country that can “repair her faults.” We have fallen low, into the depths, and there seems to be little opportunity to find our way forward, make amends, and create new prospects for growth. We are languishing in the muck together, and there seems to be no one to pull us out and help us free ourselves to make a better future.

Or maybe—just maybe—we can take Toqueville at his word. We can trust that we have the resilience not to just pull ourselves out, but to help each other free ourselves to discover new possibilities. We can realize that this will not be a job just for individuals, but for people joining together and to start mending the cracks in the foundation of our country. It will be slow and arduous, but we can do it.

Together.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    We are under attack from within by people who presume that they are bright enough to break it in such a way that it can’t be fixed.

    I think they are wrong.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    We are under attack from within by people who presume that they are bright enough to break it in such a way that it can’t be fixed.

    I think they are wrong.

    I agree! But does everyone agree with us??

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Can we? Yes. Do we have the collective will to redeem ourselves? Why would we when so many are enjoying the descent into hell?

    • #3
  4. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    Yet I wonder if we can assert that we are the country that can “repair her faults.”

    Consistent with Percival’s comment above, we are surrounded by people who DON’T want any faults to be repaired. 

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Can we? Yes. Do we have the collective will to redeem ourselves? Why would we when so many are enjoying the descent into hell?

    I can’t argue with this point, @arahant. I would never have guessed so many people would relish this fall.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Yet I wonder if we can assert that we are the country that can “repair her faults.”

    Consistent with Percival’s comment above, we are surrounded by people who DON’T want any faults to be repaired.

    But it won’t be the numbers that matter. What about those of us who love this country? Will we fight for it?

    • #6
  7. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I would never have guessed so many people would relish this fall.

    Worse, so many Americans born and bred.

    • #7
  8. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Yet I wonder if we can assert that we are the country that can “repair her faults.”

    Consistent with Percival’s comment above, we are surrounded by people who DON’T want any faults to be repaired.

    Those people have always been with us, from the Republic’s earliest days. Look up James Wilkinson and the Burr Conspiracy, the Hartford Convention, Nullification, the American Civil War, and the Lost Cause myth. So far they have always failed. The question on the table today is whether we allow them to succeed this time.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I would never have guessed so many people would relish this fall.

    Worse, so many Americans born and bred.

    Indeed. The enemy is us.

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    The question on the table today is whether we allow them to succeed this time.

    Yes! That is the question. Will we be overwhelmed by their numbers (which are probably not as large as we think they are), by their loudness (which we don’t have to listen to) or their vileness (which is naive and narcissistic)? 

    • #10
  11. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    The question on the table today is whether we allow them to succeed this time.

    Yes! That is the question. Will we be overwhelmed by their numbers (which are probably not as large as we think they are), by their loudness (which we don’t have to listen to) or their vileness (which is naive and narcissistic)?

    Their numbers are in actuality trivial, no greater than one percent of the US population. They are loud because they control traditional and social media. Their vileness is self-defeating.  It has resulted in the mobilization of America’s parents against school boards and the woke movement. 

    As for how effective their megaphone is? Listen to this and answer the question yourself. (Crude and non-COC, but I think it gets my point across.) Jerry Pournelle used to say “Despair is a sin.” It is, because it makes you give up when you could win.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Their numbers are in actuality trivial, no greater than one percent of the US population. They are loud because they control traditional and social media. Their vileness is self-defeating.  It has resulted in the mobilization of America’s parents against school boards and the woke movement. 

    As for how effective their megaphone is? Listen to this and answer the question yourself. (Crude and non-COC, but I think it gets my point across.) Jerry Pournelle used to say “Despair is a sin.” It is, because it makes you give up when you could win.

    I’m torn about these chants. They are crude, but for those of us concerned that the Afghanistan debacle will drop off the radar, is it at least helpful to us? Or are they protesting masks? Or do they even know what they’re protesting??

    • #12
  13. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I’m torn about these chants. They are crude, but for those of us concerned that the Afghanistan debacle will drop off the radar, is it at least helpful to us? Or are they protesting masks? Or do they even know what they’re protesting??

    I keep hearing that the Afghanistan debacle will drop off the radar. I doubt it. Not in flyover country. It may disappear from the MSM and social media, but people are angry. That is what those chants are about. It does not matter whether they are protesting Afghanistan, masks, their chances of future employment, or even if they know what they are protesting. They are angry at Joe Biden and his arrogance and refusal to admit mistakes will fuel that anger. Anger is the first step in taking arms against a sea of troubles.

    • #13
  14. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    I like this quote and was thinking about the very thing in relation to a lot of the apparent discontent in  recent years.  I’m like, come on people, we’ve made so much headway in so many ways.  America has indeed repaired some pretty big faults in times past.  It would be really neat if we didn’t create new ones. 

    Part of me assumes there is a grand scheme.  Perhaps creating unsolvable faults and then solving them will be an example to peoples around the globe to, walk this way. 

    • #14
  15. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I’m torn about these chants. They are crude, but for those of us concerned that the Afghanistan debacle will drop off the radar, is it at least helpful to us? Or are they protesting masks? Or do they even know what they’re protesting??

    I keep hearing that the Afghanistan debacle will drop off the radar. I doubt it. Not in flyover country. It may disappear from the MSM and social media, but people are angry. That is what those chants are about. It does not matter whether they are protesting Afghanistan, masks, their chances of future employment, or even if they know what they are protesting. They are angry at Joe Biden and his arrogance and refusal to admit mistakes will fuel that anger. Anger is the first step in taking arms against a sea of troubles.

    This is a big part of what has happened in America that is the crux of this post. Our military is reflecting the cultural changes that have changed views of many on masculinity and femininity. That change then affects the very “idea” that is the essence of America as a “nation” that makes America not really a nation at all in the same sense as other nations. We have tried “multiculturalism” and so far it is not working well.

    I think events of the next couple of years will tell us a lot about what the future holds.

    • #15
  16. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Yet I wonder if we can assert that we are the country that can “repair her faults.”

    Consistent with Percival’s comment above, we are surrounded by people who DON’T want any faults to be repaired.

    Or who will keep finding new faults to replace any that are fixed?   “Transphobia,” for example, was basically unknown not that long ago. It’s supposedly a major societal problem now.  There will always be something.

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):
    Part of me assumes there is a grand scheme. 

    Do you see the grand scheme as a positive thing? I know there are those who fear the “Great Re-Set” which takes us in an insidious direction.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    I keep hearing that the Afghanistan debacle will drop off the radar. I doubt it. Not in flyover country. It may disappear from the MSM and social media, but people are angry. That is what those chants are about. It does not matter whether they are protesting Afghanistan, masks, their chances of future employment, or even if they know what they are protesting. They are angry at Joe Biden and his arrogance and refusal to admit mistakes will fuel that anger. Anger is the first step in taking arms against a sea of troubles.

    We were in the car and heard Buck Sexton talking about chants at football games. I couldn’t hear what they were chanting, but he said they were pushing back on Covid and masks. I suspect they were, as you’ve suggested, protesting every frustration they’ve had to deal with. Could our young people begin the national protest against our freedom?

    • #18
  19. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Ol’ Alexis, smart as he was, probably did not envision a medium like the internet, where every person with a gripe can find a bunch of other people with the same gripe and magnify the noise out of all proportion to its worth.

    • #19
  20. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):
    Part of me assumes there is a grand scheme.

    Do you see the grand scheme as a positive thing? I know there are those who fear the “Great Re-Set” which takes us in an insidious direction.

    My references to a grand scheme will likely always be in reverence to The Grand Scheme.  We who believe in a higher power of some sort tend to not carry our beliefs around everywhere we go.  I’m not sure why that is other than history seems to indicate that we humans are just not that good at keeping the more important beliefs in the fore.  So, yes, a positive thing if the Master Plan includes America or maybe it should be said, if America keeps within the Master Plan. 

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Ol’ Alexis, smart as he was, probably did not envision a medium like the internet, where every person with a gripe can find a bunch of other people with the same gripe and magnify the noise out of all proportion to its worth.

    I’m sure that’s true. But lots of the people we quote lived prior to the creation of the internet. And their ideas still hold water. Does this one?

    • #21
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):
    My references to a grand scheme will likely always be in reverence to The Grand Scheme.  We who believe in a higher power of some sort tend to not carry our beliefs around everywhere we go.  I’m not sure why that is other than history seems to indicate that we humans are just not that good at keeping the more important beliefs in the fore.  So, yes, a positive thing if the Master Plan includes America or maybe it should be said, if America keeps within the Master Plan. 

    Well expressed. Yes, especially when we are pre-occupied or threatened, we tend to put our beliefs on the back-burner. Hard to say whether it’s inconvenience, weak commitment or forgetfulness that cause that to happen. But it does.

    • #22
  23. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Ol’ Alexis, smart as he was, probably did not envision a medium like the internet, where every person with a gripe can find a bunch of other people with the same gripe and magnify the noise out of all proportion to its worth.

    I’m sure that’s true. But lots of the people we quote lived prior to the creation of the internet. And their ideas still hold water. Does this one?

    Not for me—and part of the reason is the ability to unite around continually finding fault on social media.  As I said above, it’s like whack-a-mole.  Fix one “fault” and another one will pop up in the eyes of the fault finders.

    We revere many other, older quotes because their validity really isn’t impacted by the ability to form tribes on the ‘net.

    • #23
  24. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):
    My references to a grand scheme will likely always be in reverence to The Grand Scheme. We who believe in a higher power of some sort tend to not carry our beliefs around everywhere we go. I’m not sure why that is other than history seems to indicate that we humans are just not that good at keeping the more important beliefs in the fore. So, yes, a positive thing if the Master Plan includes America or maybe it should be said, if America keeps within the Master Plan.

    Well expressed. Yes, especially when we are pre-occupied or threatened, we tend to put our beliefs on the back-burner. Hard to say whether it’s inconvenience, weak commitment or forgetfulness that cause that to happen. But it does.

    I think it is simply because we have other things to hang onto that are more present.  When we lose all the other flotation devices, we reach for the only one we needed anyway or maybe that’s when we realize we have the natural ability to float.

    • #24
  25. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    We are about to test the power of the “memory hole”. Is it a truly black hole that swallows up millennia of human learning or is it a fantasy of those that wish to control us? Oral histories may come back into vogue.

    • #25
  26. Chris Oler Coolidge
    Chris Oler
    @ChrisO

    Perhaps we can look at the current “process” as taking the business of repairing our faults too far, creating another fault from which to redeem ourselves.

    I want to repeat this because it seems many people here can’t quite latch on to the concept: Twitter is not America; the legacy media is not America. We knew/know that, years ago, when ABC/NBC/CBS news producers awoke in the morning, they read the New York Times to decide what news stories to cover on their programs. It worked okay as long as the paper was somewhat responsible and ethical about its content. The Times was the hub.

    But then the Times et. al. got into competition with Internet-based media, and it became a race to “press,” or see who could take fewer seconds publishing, and Twitter seems the preferred platform for it. By this means, Twitter supplanted the Grey Lady as a guide for television producers (now also working on a 24-hour basis). 

    We also know that a large percentage of the content proliferated via Twitter comes from a very small percentage of its users. So the media chose to reflect a small corner of the public. 

    Look, many of us here spent a long portion of our lives thinking the media reflected public opinion when it truly did not. It follows heat sources, so to speak. Whatever is attractive to it. 

    The intuitive feeling you get that all that is happening is a mess, a great many share it. People who hadn’t voted for years–or had never voted–showed up in 2016 and 2020 because they finally saw a chance to do something about that mess. They saw a path for repairing the fault.

    Now…don’t you give up the faith because the media circus tells you otherwise. They are kicking and screaming to distract you from what’s happening, from being pulled into this process of correction. The government too is labeling this correction as criminal, but our hearts say ‘no,’ as do more and more every day. 

    • #26
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

     

    Chris Oler (View Comment):
    Now…don’t you give up the faith because the media circus tells you otherwise. They are kicking and screaming to distract you from what’s happening, from being pulled into this process of correction. The government too is labeling this correction as criminal, but our hearts say ‘no,’ as do more and more every day. 

    I’m not sure I understand, @chriso. What do you mean by “process of correction?” Ours or their? If it’s ours, what do you think our process should be? 

    I understand that twitter doesn’t speak for the whole country by any means, but I worry that, although everyone doesn’t comment on it (or on Facebook), that people might still believe it. Has Biden messed up enough to change their minds?

    • #27
  28. Chris Oler Coolidge
    Chris Oler
    @ChrisO

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I’m not sure I understand, @chriso. What do you mean by “process of correction?” Ours or their? If it’s ours, what do you think our process should be? 

    We engaged in repairing the fault that is separation and racism, and started that process in the 50’s and 60’s. The current fault that needs correction is in the warping of that process into a weapon to wield over others. That’s part of it, and the other part is the near-simultaneous expansion of government intrusion into our lives, and the two have now melded into one.

    Both are part of the current “process” and I would not say it is ours or theirs in any partisan sense. More and more people who thought they held the correct opinions find they, too, are in some inexplicable way responsible for others’ terrible plight. 

    We are slowly finding common cause, and a common struggle for freedom. America, whatever her faults, always corrects toward more freedom and liberty for her people. 

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Chris Oler (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I’m not sure I understand, @ chriso. What do you mean by “process of correction?” Ours or their? If it’s ours, what do you think our process should be?

    We engaged in repairing the fault that is separation and racism, and started that process in the 50’s and 60’s. The current fault that needs correction is in the warping of that process into a weapon to wield over others. That’s part of it, and the other part is the near-simultaneous expansion of government intrusion into our lives, and the two have now melded into one.

    Both are part of the current “process” and I would not say it is ours or theirs in any partisan sense. More and more people who thought they held the correct opinions find they, too, are in some inexplicable way responsible for others’ terrible plight.

    We are slowly finding common cause, and a common struggle for freedom. America, whatever her faults, always corrects toward more freedom and liberty for her people.

    Thanks so much for elaborating. I get it! And I so appreciate your optimism; I believe, given our history, that it’s well-founded!

    • #29
  30. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults. Alexis de Tocqueville

    History is on the side of the angels, and America, in this regard.  Never has a nation struggled harder, or done more, to repair the faults and fault lines of its founding and early story.

    Perhaps the soft underbelly of this quote is the one attributed (probably incorrectly) to that great Americophile, Winston Churchill:  “Americans will always do the right thing–after they’ve tried everything else.”

    Why it’s necessary to waste time trying “everything else,” especially when so much of it has already been proven not to work or to cause more misery and anguish, is beyond me, but perhaps that’s what it will take.

    And then, America will do the right thing. 

    I am sure.

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    • #30