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What is America

What is America? By Mark Shubert America is not just a government institution in North America but more importantly a cosmopolitan concept; a concept for the cause of all of humanity where each individual is treated equally to any other individual, where rights are discovered and protected and an amending process makes sure that our governments do not infringe on those rights, where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the focus of the law of the land, where there are no hierarchies with titles of divinity nor nobility but instead a collection of fairly and freely elected representatives with limited power and scope and who are constantly being replaced, where the structure of governments have their powers separated, where those powers are checking and balancing each other constantly, where science is promoted freely to all, where innovation and the wealth produced by that innovation does not stifle equality but instead provides the means to it, where the betterment of the well being of everyone is sought after before the frivolous extravagance of selfishness and ambition, where patriotism is not the worship of symbols and names but the giving of hearts and minds to these principles, where the laws created by representatives are not made to spite the people but to increase their welfare so that the necessity of punishment is a rarity, where representation should not be determined by the similarity of life styles, class, race, sex, creed, or birth place, but by their devotion to their constituents in public servitude and that their probity include these ideals. “America is not just a government institution in North America but more importantly a cosmopolitan concept; a concept for the cause of all of humanity…” Over the course of the United State’s history, the word America has become nationalized to mean only the territories under the jurisdiction of the government that is called the United States of America. People wave Old Glory and proudly proclaim “God Bless America” as “Hail to the Chief” plays or some other song like my personal favorite “Hail to the Spirit of Liberty.” However, there is a lot of political disunity in these United States. Many Americans are questioning what it means to be “American” or to “believe in American values.” America, as stated before, is not just the government that governs a collection of states, but a cosmopolitan concept that hosts a variety of ideals that exists for the betterment of Mankind. “...where each individual is treated equally to any other individual…” Equality is a tricky topic because people do not make the distinction between the government treating people unequally to businesses or other individuals. People think that this value must be enforced on and by those three entities and this is partially true. It is the case that the government ought to enforce equality to its citizens as much as it could and to leave out any prejudice that can exist. But should a business and an individual be forced to live by this? Well if a business or an individual wants to consider themselves to be America who believes in American values, then yes, they ought to ignore prejudice and treat everyone as equally as possible. But these values themselves should not be forced onto people nor should they have to be absolutely enforced. What I mean is an individual can treat his or her family differently than they would to a stranger without violating this principle. Inequality of treatment becomes harder to justify between two strangers and even more so when a business does it. America, the nation, has had and still has an embarrassingly large number of areas today that includes businesses and individuals who discriminate against others on the basis of race, sex, gender, class, and even religion. Although these are Americans and American businesses, they are not living by American values. Individuals have the right to discriminate and show prejudice; businesses on the other hand should not be considered individuals, since they are made up of individuals and they themselves have no consciousness or person hood, and they should be forced to follow this principle. How we can enforce this is by taking away the state’s recognition of a certain business that does not promote or enforce equal treatment within that business. We can take away the business’ bailouts and block them from selling their stock on the market and by taxing them at a higher rate if they do not meet equality standards provided by local, state, and federal governments. “...where rights are discovered and protected and an amending process makes sure that our governments do not infringe on those rights…” Our “rights” are those that are included in the Amendments such as the Bill of Rights which are the first ten amendments but also six more amendments that include rights such as the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th amendments. These six amendments should be included when we talk about the Bill of Rights since they are about rights just like the first ten are. All of them needed to have been discovered, debated, supported, and enumerated into the constitution. There are many more rights out there some are being debated today and some have yet to be discovered. This process is arduous but careful; some suggest that it has been made this way to prevent more rights and there is a sad truth to that, however, the amending process is a tool that can also make it difficult to remove these rights once they are put in. The process also ensures that the people are sure about these rights and it gives a good diagnosis of the state of our union; if the vast majority of the people are disgruntled that a right is not protected by the constitution then that means that Congress and the state legislatures in opposition to the will of the people and at that point, it is the duty of the people to encourage or replace those representatives with those who will pass the amendment without issue. “...where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the focus of the law of the land…” This is intentionally vague in order to let the current population determine these terms and to amend the government to live by contemporary definitions. What are those three things? Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are the standards of living that we decide. People today declare their penance to the Founding Fathers for creating such a wonderful and decent standard of living. However, the current standard of living is vastly different from the standard of living from 240+ years ago. Slavery is abolished, infrastructure has been developed multiple times, women and all races are protected of their suffrage, sanitation has increased multiple times, healthcare has increased multiple times, discrimination and for the most part, violent hatred is less common. All of these did not exist for the generation of women, enslaved, or poor that lived during the generation of our Founding Fathers. They did not appear all at once but had to have been fought for by the disenfranchised against those who were already privileged to be living in such a standard and by those fooled to believe that increasing the standard will harm them. “... where there are no hierarchies with titles of divinity nor nobility…” Our Constitution prohibits the use of religious tests and so religious assessments should not be common nor should judging someone on the basis of religion is practiced by people who claim to believe and follow American values. Given the first clause of the first amendment states that Congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion, no religion should be preferred and no religious establishment should be endorsed. The Constitution also prohibits the recognition of any titles of nobility, essentially preventing legitimate or respected distinctions between classes of people such as lords nor should these higher classes be treated differently than the “common folk”... we need to work on this one a bit more given how the wealthy usually get more passes on infractions and lesser sentencing than the average American which is not consistent with equal treatment. “...a collection of fairly and freely elected representatives with limited power and scope and who are constantly being replaced…” Fairly means democratically and freely means without much cost to the people voting. The 26th amendment fixes this problem by getting rid of poll taxes which were a way of preventing the poor from voting. Limited power simply means that a single representative or senator should not have the power to enact too much change, at least not without a large caucus in congress to pass those reforms. Usually, there are a few representatives and senators who guide the rest of congress, these are the movers and shakers. The issue is that all congressmen should be movers and shakers instead of what we currently have which are mostly career politicians who just go with whomever they think could help them win re-election. What exactly they are changing should be up to their constituents. Constantly being replaced refers to enacting term-limits in congress; nine terms for representatives, eighteen years, and three terms for senators, another eighteen years, is what I propose. “...where the structure of governments have their powers separated, where those powers are checking and balancing each other constantly…” The separation of power has always been a political issue since the start of human civilization. Do the priests get the most power? What about the kings? Well, that particular question does not apply to Americans since we don’t have titles of divinity nor nobility but we still have to wonder about legislative, executive, and judicial power. These three powers were decided to be the most important and bare essentials of a government during the Age of Reason by a number of political theorists primarily in England, France, and the American colonies who were known as the Republic of Letters since they shared their ideas through letters. They were living in a time where there were two powers, a legislative and an executive, and these two powers were constantly at war with each other trying to seize more power all at the expense of the people. There was also a clergy “class” who acted as their own power but they weren’t part of the government and they usually sided with the executive power especially after the creation of legislative power. Those political theorists, some of whom were our Founding Fathers, realized that separating the government into two powers was not enough to create stability and provide security and welfare to the people so they decided to create a new division of power that would be judicial power. A new branch of government that would be semi-independent but not co-equal. In fact, our Founding Fathers made our government in a way so that no branch was equal to another; they had the legislative branch as the head of the government but today any American would think that the President, executive branch, was the head of the government and that is true today which we should restore Congressional authority since congress is more democratic and representative of the people. Some would argue that the branches should be or are equal because how can you balance two branches if they are not equal? The balance isn’t a comparison of two or more branches with each other but it is a balance between one branch and its enumerated power. What I mean is the balance is between a single branch and what they are supposed to do or not do; the ones doing the balancing are the other branches. “...where science is promoted freely to all…” Education is a right that needs more protection and recognition from our government and the public. Science in this usage simply means knowledge that is discovered or expected of the public. These include history, science such as chemistry, and astronomy, also language, math, and civics. These topics should not be owned by anyone nor should anyone be making profits from compulsory education. “...where innovation and the wealth produced by that innovation does not stifle equality but instead provides the means to it…” Innovation and the capitalization of that innovation are ways to provide better living standards for everyone. Innovation into technology, medicine, production, communication increase the standard of living directly while wealth and the distribution of that wealth, either from the market or the government, increase the number of people who get to live in that higher standard of living. It is self-evident that the current economic system has severe inefficiencies when it comes to innovation, particularly the distribution of that innovation in the market. The evidence of this is the fact that companies who do the innovating are selling with planned obsolescence in mind which means they are not selling the best of what they have but instead only distributing a portion of their actual innovation to be sold in parts in order to make more profits. Think of it as a video game designer launching a game that is not good and even unfinished than selling many DLCs. They could have sold the completed game but they decide to sell it in pieces and the sum cost of those pieces is greater than the whole game. This is an inefficiency in innovation because it limits the market’s response to new technology. Another inefficiency are patents, especially how patents exist today which is very different than even fifty years ago. Patents restrict the number of people who can innovate with a given technology. Since all innovation requires previous innovation, whoever owns that previous innovative technology has a lot of authority in who can use that technology to innovate even more. “...where the betterment of the well being of everyone is sought after before the frivolous extravagance of selfishness and ambition…” This is a continuation of the last paragraph since it is the bourgeoisie, the owners, who reap surplus value from the market at the expense of the market and are the ones to restrict innovation in order to have planned obsolescence in the first place. This statement also refers to a number of economic stimuli that a lobbied government seems to have no issue with a handout at the expense of the taxpayer. These stimuli include tax incentives and subsidies. The current economic philosophy of congress and of many economists is trickle-down economics which is essentially the idea that the bourgeoisie should be given more money, through tax incentives and subsidies, and that they know what to do with that money that will trickle down to the American worker. There are a ton of issues with this, the first being that the American people need more than a trickle to live a decent life, and what is trickling down isn’t actually wealth but instead debt. The rich don’t give money, they loan it. When they do “give” money, they received tax deductions and oftentimes subsidies which means they don’t actually give anything of their own but just move other people’s money around and they end up with the surplus-value along with fooling the people into thinking that they are philanthropists. Another issue is that the high class are usually the ones to crash the economy and yet they still get subsidies even when it is clear that they do not know how to handle money or the economy themselves. Under the current system it is encouraged for owners of especially large companies to tank the company, take subsidies and bailouts, buy back bonds, receive loads of money through compensation, and then abandon that company leaving thousands if not millions of Americans affected and paying the costs of the economic downturn. “...where patriotism is not the worship of symbols and names but the giving of hearts and minds to these principles…” Many Americans think that patriotism is just respecting a flag and some names of dead people. We see this in the apotheosis of Washington, the deification of our Founding Fathers, reverence to their “holy wisdom,” glorification and worship of statues, all while neglecting the suffering and discrimination of their fellow Americans. Our Founding Fathers were not wise men, nor were they good men especially in today’s use of the word good. They were not a monolith of ideas but instead fought each other, disagreed with each other, even killed each other, and all of them certainly used their position in the colonies and the newly born nation to pocket themselves wealth and admiration. As they wrote all men are created equal, they owned slaves, they were even aware of their hypocrisy and did very little about it. Our Constitution was not created out of genuine love for political theory but out of compromising with dozens of special interest groups including the interest of maintaining the institution of slavery. Patriotism is not the worship of those men or even the men and women who came before us. Patriotism is not for the past but the future. We do not live for the Founding Fathers but instead, they lived for us and we live for our posterity for in the preamble of our Constitution the second to the last clause is, “to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” These blessings are the principles that I have outlined so far, and so it is Patriotic to live by these principles because it is these principles and ideas that shape our behavior and treatment of one another, not a flag or a statue. Flags and statues mean whatever someone wants it to mean and so they can have preconceived notions of the meaning of the flag and then pledge loyalty to their interpretation of that flag even though their interpretation has no basis in reality and oftentimes are inconsistent with actual American values i.e. the values mentioned in this essay. “...where the laws created by representatives are not made to spite the people but to increase their welfare so that the necessity of punishment is a rarity…” One reason why the legislative branch should be the head branch instead of the executive is that the legislative branch is more responsible to the constituents of their state or district while the executive, which is mainly made up of appointed offices, is not dependent or even caring of the will of the people. Everyone desires what is good for them. This often includes their loved ones such as family and friends but also their community. How someone knows what is good for them is a consequence of their environment. Crime is not the source of what is wrong with the public but a reaction to what criminals believe to be best for them. The solution is not retribution but reconciliation through the improvement of the environment. Instead of more police, how about more schools, clinics, parks, rehabilitation, and the increase in the general welfare. When the conditions of labor, social life, and family, are improved there is a decrease in the desire to ruin those improved conditions. In essence, the happier people are the less they will be deviating from the public good. “...where representation should not be determined by the similarity of lifestyles, class, race, sex, creed, or birthplace, but by their devotion to their constituents in public servitude and that their probity include these ideals.” Oftentimes people want a sectarian government, a government where the representatives are chosen by demographics, I know sectarianism has more of a negative connotation but in this use of the word I do not necessarily mean discrimination however sectarian structure governments do lead to the majority party or sect to mistreat the other sects. What this means is that if the black community makes up 13% of the total US population then the government should be made up of 13% black representatives. This isn’t good since it divides this nation up by race and this can be applied with religion like how several sectarian governments are in the Middle East, or ethnic groups, or sex, or gender. Our nation should not be divided on those issues. This is also not good because the black community should not be limited by demographics. Under the current system, if racism in America did not exist, we could see 50% or 80% of congress be made up of black individuals, same with women who make up just over 50% of the population they could be 90% of congress just like how men who make up just less than 50% of the population make up 90% of congress. This way representatives are determined by the values and pragmatism that their constituents desire. The issue with this is what “values” some Americans have, such as sexism or racism, or homophobia... The solution to this isn’t sectarianism, but instead the removal of bigotry through proper education and cosmopolitan interaction. All of these principles can be put into two categories; the first being the structure of government and the second is the relation between the people and that government. The first includes ideals like separation of power, checks, and balances, no titles of divinity nor nobility, the amending process, no sectarianism; the second includes ideals like protected rights, equality, providing security and welfare. It is important to understand both categories to better understand our society and to contribute more to this discussion about politics.

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