I have heard this phrase at least a couple times in the last week or so. "The idea of America," they say. Bono said that he loves the idea of America, Peter Jennings felt the same way (and obtained America citizenship), and I guess I could see where they're going with this.
While I might have my issues–that I have brought up in previous posts–with America in its current state, I think I could go there with both these fellas.
The idea of a nation of people where anyone could come and make a life for themselves, escape oppression, find hope, where the Earth seemed rich with blessing, where the government and people lead the way by example (how very much like ancient China) instead of by force, where the rich care for the poor in such a way that all find their stomachs full... and perhaps we find no longer rich and poor as distinctions.
But I am reminded that this is not the case in so many ways today. For as much energy as I could spend supporting an argument for higher tax burden for those who make more in this nation, feeling that it is their moral responsibility to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, I do still believe that inspiration is far better than legislation. In fact, this morning, when I heard on NPR that the state of California is going to raise like 100 million dollars by taxing the rich, I kind of shuddered. I mean, is legislation the best means necessary? Will people not give out of the goodness of their own hearts? I wonder. I really do.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said he wanted to bring about inspiration, not legislation in furthering his cause that all men and women would be recognized as being created equal.
But looking at how things "actually" work in America, it is hard for me to buy into this "idea of America" sometimes because I think most people have a different "idea of America." The myths generated by television shows and movies and whatnot do not generally promote these ideals, but an alternative set of ideals that are very egocentric, hoarding, materialistic, and disconnected.
Sounds a bit like the idea of Christianity to me. There are so many people who have so many different ideas of how it's supposed to work, what is at its heart. Moral legislation or inspiration? I read somewhere recently that when a lighthouse does it's job, it doesn't need to send off fireworks to say, "Hey! Over here! Look, a lighthouse!" because it is a lighthouse and by its very nature, people will see it for what it is.
I wonder if any of this makes sense or resonates with any of you... or perhaps infuriates you? Just questions. Just trying to help in the re-imagining of a better world. Just trying to figure out what that means for me and my family and friends.