It is the will to put to test our most fundamental beliefs in search of common good that makes us uniquely American.
I have a special affinity for Alexander Hamilton. He’s from the West Indies, and so am I. He was an immigrant to the colonies that became The United States of America. At my birth, in 1954, I was registered with the American Consulate in Dutch Guyana, but for the first 14 years I did not consider myself to be an American.
I knew my father and mother were American, but I was just a kid growing up in a Dutch colony. My first real American experience was a day when I was down in the yard playing and I heard my mother scream upstairs. I ran up to the kitchen, and she was sobbing because the president had been shot. Hmm, Dutch Guyana had a Governor (he lived across the street in the big white house) and a Prime Minister. A president? It was the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
My other early American experience was the benefit of my father traveling frequently. He had resigned his comfortable and secure position with Alcoa, in Dutch Guyana, to start a trading business in 1959. My friends and I wallowed in the Sears catalogs he brought home. It was America. Every child’s dream could be bought in a store, only in America.
After failing my second annual attempt to pass the national exam to get into high school, Dad sent me to boarding school in Trinidad. Here is where Hamilton and I are very different. He acquired and retained knowledge, I just liked to play… The next six years I became a Trinidadian.
At twenty I moved to Miami. Five years later I moved back to Trinidad and finally in 1986 I moved to the US permanently.
In the 1970’s, in Trinidad, I lived through a Black Power Revolution, an attempted military coup, a polio epidemic, and a military occupation of our boarding school to rid the jungle behind our school of guerilla rebels. Even though I was in Trinidad in 1980, my family experienced the successful military coup in Dutch Guyana, now called Suriname. It took 16 soldiers nine hours to overthrow the young democratic government resulting in 30 years of military rule. The darkest hour of this military rule was “The December Murders” in 1982. My father had to cut his vacation short (he was sailing in the Grenadines) and fly to Trinidad where he waited, at my house, for news from my brother in Suriname. It took two days for my brother to get a call out. I watched my father’s demeaner change, from tanned, confident sailor to corpse-like, as my brother listed the names of the 15 men murdered by the military. Many were close friends and business acquaintances.
I share this brief history for perspective. Having lived and worked in developing countries gives me a rich appreciation of the United States of America. I loved my childhood in Suriname and my youth in Trinidad. Unlike Hamilton I embrace my early years as a multicultural inoculation against American arrogance, racial discrimination and petty bickering.
There is a fundamental difference between the creation of America and the birth of the countries I was born and raised in. America’s founding fathers sought the common good. There was much greed, but, at its inception, they managed to put together a constitution that represented a true balance of power between the judiciary, legislative and executive branches of government. Because of this, compromise is at the heart of American greatness. What our founding fathers created does not work without compromise.
We have elected officials who openly attack every branch of government tasked to make sure those officials don’t overreach. Others cowardly collude in the dead-end alleyways of congress to obstruct every advance of the other party, irrespective of the value of those advances. We have accepted and often branded these actions as American values. Nothing is further from the truth.
Today I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I live here by choice! It is God’s country. There is a church on every corner. Strangers greet you in the street. People will give you the shirt off their backs if you need them too. Everyone wants to do the right thing. Lord they mean well, and my lord, they screw it up sometimes. But they do mean well. That is what matters. It is the reason why after 240 years our country still thrives.
Washington’s early military endeavors were abject failures. Hamilton’s childhood should have precluded him from ever amounting to anything. Yet these two men rose to create, perhaps, the greatest nation in history. Scholars will write long dissertations on why or how our founding fathers managed to create a foundation for greatness. I am not a scholar, so I will keep it simple. They gave a shit! They cared! They understood that compromise, in a republic, is a critical part of it’s governance.
The Federalists and the Anti-Federalists were men with conflicting needs and often selfish motives, but at the end of the day the common good prevailed. The strength of our nation is rooted in the ability of opposing ideologies to find common ground. Our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and laws were created by strong-willed men with very different ideologies that found common ground. It is the will to put to test our most fundamental beliefs in search of common good that makes us uniquely American.
Our country is divided. Each party claiming to represent the only true American ideals, and if you disagree you are an enemy of America. Those who compromise are called traitors when compromise is the greatest American value.
Nothing else matters, if not for the common good, and it can only be found in compromise.
Join TheArch.US and bring America home again. The first objective of TheArch.US is to create a tool to measure our elected officials’ ability to create common ground. To this end I invite true American patriots, who value common good above party affiliation, to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We need all skills, organizers, statisticians, and web developers, and most of all, well-meaning individuals who believe in our cause.
We are not a political party. TheArch.US is a grassroots movement to help define the true meaning of being American and move our politics back to that place that truly makes us great.
Author: Tim Healy