Enough all ready! Look, I love my Americans but I gotta tell you, I’m a little tired of having to listen to your bitching about “them”. It is political season again, I guess it never stops these days in the US, another part of the problem I suppose, and this time around, the hate monitors are off the screen. I’m old enough to remember when Americans actually thought of themselves as a country of people with common interests that served to bind us as a nation and a people, and far outweighed the differences that divided us. Not sure when it began to change and my guess is any discussion on the matter would just lead to an argument anyway. It would be “their” fault you know. The “them” seems to change though, depending on who is talking but the almost seething hatred is always the same. I’m amazed at the way Americans have come to hate one another. People hate one another because of the color of their skin, what church they go to, who they voted for or work for, if they want to save the world or if it isn’t worth saving, war or peace, Levi or Lee, rock or country … you guys are driving me crazy! I came here to get away from that!!
These days, hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear an angry American tourist say how much he hates his government. Too often I hear, “if you want to mess something up, let the government run it.” As an ex-pat, living in Mexico, I want to just laugh. And as a business person, I just keep my opinions to myself and keep serving margaritas. Well, I did. But I just could not listen to that any more so I finally let a guy have it with the soft hammer.
A very nice gentleman and I were chatting in front of the restaurant the other day when he said to me, “you are very lucky to live in such a paradise. I can’t tell you how much I’d like to just leave the US, its corrupt, dysfunctional government and all its problems behind, once and for all.”
“You know sir,” I said. “I hear good, caring Americans say that every day. But here is what I, an ex-pat who very much loves and even misses his country, would tell you. I came here with much of that same thinking inside me. And in the time I have been here, I have learned much about Mexico, myself and even more perhaps, about my own country. I never really knew how much I took for granted about the country I came from. Take it from me sir, you don’t live in a country with bad government. You live in the country that has the very best governmental framework in the history of this planet. You live in a country that still has some real measure of freedom and democracy. You live in a country where when you turn on the light switch, you can assume the lights are going to come on. Where, when you turn on the water faucet, clean water always comes on. Where when you call a policeman, one shows up, trained and equipped and really there to protect and serve. Where, when you call a fire department, they send a truck and equipment able to help. And when they need water, there is generally a hydrant there, also provided by government, for them to connect to try to save your house.”
You live in a country where almost every town has a public library with vast information and a staff ready and able to help you. Where you can still drop a letter in the mail for about fifty cents and be sure that it will arrive in a timely manner. You live in a country that has thousands of, although not always perfect, the very best roads found anywhere in the world allowing us to travel around to see family and friends easily. You can use those roads to go to any of the thousands of government built and operated parks, lakes, reservoirs and national parks and forests. You have a public school system with the best equipment and facilities found anywhere in the world. Do I need to go on? I can you know. Don’t hate all government, just hate bad government!”
“Trust me, you don’t know dysfunctional government,” I said finally. “I live in it. I know it very well. All that stuff we Americans take for granted, we don’t have here. What we have is what so many in the US think they want; small and cheap government. Almost all of our problems here go back to just not enough money to pay for good government. Not enough schools or education budgets to keep the next generation of Mexican workers on par with the rest of the world. Almost all the geographical area of the country has non-existent or 3rd world infrastructure. They pay cops nothing here so they make it up taking bribes. Same for most government services. I think generally you get what you pay for and government services are no exception.”
“If I were you, and every American on that ship should do the same, I would get back on that boat and when I arrived back in the US, I’d get off and kiss the ground I was standing on and thank, God, Allah, Buddha, or whoever or whatever you think blessed you enough to have allowed you to live in such a great country. You might not can see that from where you stand, but from where I do, I can see it very clear.”
The man said, “you’re probably right. But it just seems like it is all coming apart now in the US.”
“No, it’s not actually” I told him. “Stop listening to the little box because it is the talking heads inside that little box that tell you all is okay, when it is not, like wars that are supposed to be going fine but really are not or economies are fine, when we can’t pay our bills, or that all is going to crap when it is really not that big of deal, like the world will end as we know it if two guys get married or a church wants to educate a kid. It won’t!
This much I think I know, you have two very good, honest and capable men wanting to lead your country. They have very different ideas as to how that should be done but the US will be just fine with either because regardless of what the talking heads say, these two know that the ties that bind them are far greater than those that divide them. That has not always been the case in the past but I think this year we are lucky and this is true. You will hear all sorts of venom coming from everyone around them, talking heads, interest groups with lie filled commercials, all designed to manipulate you, not inform you, and the best way to do that is to divide you. Listen to the two candidates and only what they say they will do. Take them and only them for their word and hold them to it. But when we forget that we are all Americans, with much more in common that we might have that divides us, we are doomed.”
He smiled, shook my hand and said thanks. He insisted that he buy me a beer and we decided to talk about pretty girls in little bikinis for a while, another thing we both liked and agreed on. There is always common ground, you just need to find it.
As I said, I’m not sure when this political polarization and hatred began, but it has been going on long enough that an entire generation at least has come to think of this as normal America. Compromise, the glue that held us together as a nation, has been replaced by unbending ideologies that believe they are right and that to be wrong means the end of the country as we know it. Trust me, it does not matter which one of these guys wins, the US will continue to be a great nation and its form of democracy will remain one to be admired by so much of the rest of the world. Remember that first and then start the discussion of how to make it better.