I’ve had the rare privilege of being able to be in the Eastern Time Zone so that I can experience the news as it happens in real time. Usually I am consuming the news twelve hours later. So, I have sat before my TV and computer watching, listening, and reading the events of the past week: the G-20 fiasco, the Ol’ Pussy Grabber allowing Putin to grab him and America by the pussy, the emails and confession of Don Don.
I watched NBC‘s Meet the Press on Sunday. Chuck Todd was dancing around the issue of shared American values, so of course there was no meaningful discussion much less anything even remotely resembling an answer. But, it brought to the forefront of my mind what I’d always thought were shared American values.
I had a curious conversation with a conservative gentleman from California in a bar in South Korea about ten years ago in which he wondered why his tax dollars should go to help a junkie in NYC. He was unimpressed when I pointed out that we are all Americans and that we should help each other when we are in need. He also claimed that there was no discrimination against Hispanics in California, too, so there’s that. I was struck by how the thought of helping other Americans as a responsibility of Americans seemed so foreign to him. He seemed to distinguish between people who deserved help and those who didn’t being American wasn’t enough.
I will list the ones I remember from my primary and secondary education. Let me know if I missed any in the comments:
- One person, one vote
- Universal adult suffrage
- All people are created equal
- All Americans have equal protection under the law
- No person, including the president, is above the law (thanks Nixon for making that one necessary to articulate
- We do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, ethnicity, or national origin
- Freedom to worship and assemble
- Freedom of speech
- A free press
Values Through Actions
In psychology, we look at what people do as much as, if not more, than what they say they do. Actions speak louder than words. So, are these the American values that we live today? Have we ever lived them?
Are we really free from discrimination no matter what our race, creed, ethnicity, or national origin is? I don’t think we are. The social sciences have amply documented discrimination based on these qualities and more.
Are we all equally protected by the law when there is a demonstrable bias in arrests, prosecutions, and convictions? Are we even working towards ending discrimination and equal protection?
With demonstrable efforts to suppress the vote by various states and now the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT! as verified by federal courts. Okay, the current Kobach rape of voting rolls and data to sell to the Russians so they can further control our elections.
Do we have freedom of religion when the federal government is seeking to ban people of a religion from entering the country? Do we have freedom of religion when states are passing so-called religious freedom bills that allow businesses to discriminate based on religiously held beliefs. To be clear, businesses can refuse service to anyone, thus the familiar no shirt, no shoes, no service signs that you see occasionally. What you can’t do is enter the free market and deny service to a class of people, so you can’t have the sign no blacks, no Muslims, no women. A class of people are groups distinguished by characteristics that are more fundamental and difficult to change.
Do we have freedom of the press when the president regularly attacks the press as being fake and dishonest?
Since we are a democracy, we can probably all agree that one person, one vote is a fundamental value. But, when we have an entire party effectively minimizing the interference with our elections perpetrated by the Russians, can we claim the vote as a value we share? When we have an entire party working to suppress the vote by restricting registration, can we claim the vote as a value we share? When we have an entire party working to gerrymander a permanent majority, can we claim the vote as a value we share? When we have an electorate so apathetic that we celebrate 55+% as large turnout, when 33% of eligible voters couldn’t vote because they couldn’t get time off work, can we claim the vote as a value we share?
What are our shared American values? What are the values that we as Americans all share? Because we don’t seem to share much across the political divide nowadays. We can’t even come together when our country has been attacked.