Forget about Great: Let's Make America Decent Again
Almost 250 years into our nationhood, the United States of America is mired in a morass of massive proportions. It would be nice to say that the morass is of a strictly political nature, but it would be inaccurate. Our morass is political—let there be no doubt—but it is also physical, ethical, academic, economic, social and environmental. (Add just about any other adjective here.) As we approach our sestercentenial, our roads, bridges and cities are in an appalling state of disrepair; a significant number of our elected officials are either under investigation for ethical breaches or have already been expelled; our primary and secondary schools are failing at an unprecedented rate and our colleges and universities—although still strong—are prohibitively expensive. Worse still, the disparity between rich and poor grows daily, and our leaders (word used with great misgiving) seem more focused on the stock market than stagnant wages, gender and race inequalities, and catastrophic climate change.
My father used to say that if you want to get the mud out of the water, you need to get the hog out of the spring. Of the many hogs in our spring, the biggest and fattest hog—the one most responsible for the mud that flows thick and murky in our water—is the lack of governing taking place at the federal level. How is it possible, I ask you, for any of these problems to be fixed when our national government, paralyzed as it is by partisanship, egoism, and the complete absence of listening, does nothing but breathe hot air and vitriol?
The answer is to turn on its head the usual paradigm of leadership; instead of leading from the top down we need to lead from the bottom up. Our people remain our strength and the only path forward. We live in a democracy, albeit one gravely threatened by the influence of power and wealth, but still a democracy, in which our elected congressmen, senators and executive officers are a mere election away from irrelevancy.
Leading from the bottom up needs to involve more than just voting, however. We need to listen to one another, especially to people with views that oppose are own; we need to respect one another, and to treat every person with dignity; we need to look out for another, especially for the people at the margins of our society; and, above all, we need to shake off the complacency that has led to inaction. Acknowledgement of the problem is the necessary first step to resolving it.
If you are not ready to merely shrug your shoulders and accept the status quo, you can lead us to becoming the country in which you want your children and your children’s children to live. Open your mind to what someone else has to say and, more importantly, to what they do, ignoring his or her gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, and political persuasion. In this day and age of sound bites and social media, it is the walk we walk that defines us. That said, action begins with talk: words matter. Speak carefully and post with caution; one hateful comment, retweeted and amplified by the incredible power of social media, can be a potent and destructive force. Social media is a tool, and, like any other tool, it can be used for a variety of purposes, good or bad. You choose.
Leading from the bottom up is not going to be an easy or quick task, but many hands make light work, and the more hands we have the, the faster we'll be able to get that hog out of the spring.
Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include The Intern, TouchPoint Press, 4/2020; The Vatican Conspiracy, the first book in the Marco Venetti thriller series, October 2020, Bookouture/HachetteUK; Doubt, Marco Venetti #2, April 2021; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Here, the literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets. Peter is the creator, producer and host of Your Health Matters, a health information program, which airs on cable television, streams on YouTube and sounds off on podcast. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at email@example.com or on his Facebook Page.