The Wonderful Frustration Of Being An America

It seems like all the air is being sucked out of our lives by the relentless focus so many now seem to have on broadcasting their political beliefs at the highest possible volume every moment of every day. It tires me out just to watch and listen.

We all know whom these angry folks are protesting with every fiber of their being; President Trump is, after all, the focus of practically every conversation these days. However, what honestly most concerns me is the overwrought reactions of these disgruntled millions. Many of them seem to have forgotten that ours is a government that stretches like a rubber band—sometimes near to the breaking point—before snapping back to a more reasonable and sustainable state.

Donald Trump is the duly-elected President of our nation, and voters will have an opportunity to indirectly vote on his administration and policies in the 2018 midterm elections—and more directly decide upon his future in November of 2020. It might be the case, as some publications and pundits claim, that the results of these upcoming elections will reflect widespread “buyer’s remorse” over ever putting Mr. Trump within the hallowed walls of the Oval Office. However, it might also be true that all the current media and Internet hooting and hollering about the (insert inflammatory insult of your choice HERE) in the White House does not accurately reflect the will of the electorate, and President Trump will enjoy an expanded mandate to pursue his agenda after the next rounds of elections. Either way, the will of the voters will be heard, and our democratic system will march on.

If I were to make a prediction regarding the next several years, President Trump will change much when it comes to the vast unelected regulatory and administrative state that has sprung up over the past half century and now runs a great deal our daily lives because those agencies and departments can be significantly altered or swept aside through executive actions. In addition, he certainly will leave his imprint on the Supreme Court and the Federal court system through the nominations he will make.

Nonetheless, the basic structure of our country that is enshrined in foundational documents such as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is impervious—and rightly so. They might have been a bunch of slave-holding, rich white men who were products of a time far less enlightened than our own, but the founders of our nation still somehow managed to craft governing documents that have withstood the test of time and facilitated the growth of the United States into an economic and military colossus that—for all its flaws—provides more freedom to more people than any nation in world history. One President cannot change that.

However, we can unthinkingly poison our civic life and rend the social fabric of our country by continuing our derisive absolutism when it comes to the government reforms that Mr. Trump promised to implement if elected. The very nature of our system of government is, if I may be forgiven for paraphrasing a classic Rolling Stones song, that you don’t always get what you want—but you just might find that you get what you need.

Before America’s Les Miserables go screaming out into the streets to protest whatever next arouses their fury, I suggest they have a beer—maybe even more than one. The wails of our nation’s overwrought Social Justice Warriors notwithstanding, President Trump will not be able to grind up his political opponents and sell their remains as cat food. Moreover, despite the fondest wishes of social conservatives, we are not going to return to some misty memory version of mid-20th century America—no poodle skirts or penny loafers, please.

We will instead, thundering rhetoric on both sides to the contrary, continue to do what our country has always done except in those rarest moments of true national emergency: muddle toward the middle of the road. If we can stop hurling insults at one another for a moment (Racist! Snowflake! Nazi! Libtard!), one can easily imagine changes in our nation over the next year or so that are a lot less frightening than all the frightening rhetoric might lead many to believe:

  • Federal agencies and programs that deliver little actual value for the dollar will be shrunk or simply pruned away—which does not seem unreasonable.
  • Illegal immigrants who break the law or cheat the system to obtain public benefits will be deported—which does not seem unreasonable.
  • Those illegal immigrants brought here as children or who are able to demonstrate a significant record of law-abiding productivity will be offered a path to permanent residence or eventual citizenship—which does not seem unreasonable.
  • Those hyper-vigilant to the even mildest perceived slight, particularly those easily infuriated cohorts of students and faculty on our college campuses, will need to recognize that surpassingly few disagreements are mortal wounds and more than one point of view can easily occupy the same intellectual space—which does not seem unreasonable.
  • Healthcare expenses will be reined in as we make the difficult transition from a state-sponsored to a free market system of insurance and care delivery, and many patients will be required to take a more active role in managing their own care while new mandates are forcing insurers and providers to be more efficient—which does not seem unreasonable.
  • Our elected leaders will need to explain that, although government certainly has a legal and moral obligation to intercede when physical harm is threatened or inflicted, there is simply no way to guarantee that anyone’s actions or choices can be entirely free of thoughtful criticism or outright rejection by others based on their own deeply-held values—which does not seem unreasonable.
  • Moreover, there is simply no way that government can be expected to silence every loud-mouthed jerk in the land, so we might all have to sometimes deal with idiots and remember that sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt us—which does not seem unreasonable.

Despite the growing fears of change that are warping the perspectives of many, there are—when we take a deep breath and consider all the options—many paths forward that are perfectly sensible if we can only remember that the daily business of democracy is not about total victory or abject defeat. Most often our political process is a herky-jerky back and forth that eventually arrives at a consensus that will leave most groups and individuals a little dissatisfied with the outcome because it is not exactly what they wanted.

This is, for many, the truly maddening aspect of democracy—no one is able to actually win, and no one really ever loses—but it is precisely this that gives our political system its remarkable resilience. Unlike highly efficient totalitarian governments throughout history that inevitably have resulted in cruel oppression followed by violent revolution, the American political system is designed to frustrate ideologues and fanatics who are able to view those with differing ideas only with hatred and contempt.

In fact, the daily rants of the ideological purists might be the clearest possible signal that our system of government is functioning just as it should. If either the Social Justice Warriors or Paleolithic Conservatives were dancing in the streets a few months after an election, I would be seriously concerned about the health of our nation. All the whining and wailing since last November is a comforting sign that our great American democracy is alive and well—and frustrating everyone just a little.

Those hunkered down for the apocalypse they seem certain is now upon us might feel a bit better about our nation and its people if they just went out and talked to some of the fellow Americans they apparently seem to loathe. If they do, they just might find that they get something we all so desperately need at times: a bracing dose of contact with the many perfectly kind and thoughtful citizens of our nation whose only crime is holding onto a contrary opinion that is based on their own judgment, values, and life experience. These conversations might also help both sides to understand lives different from their own and find some middle ground based on our common humanity.

We may still disagree with one another, but hopefully we can also find a connection through our shared frustration—that no one seems to realize that we have all the perfect answers to every issue facing our country. More than anything, that arrogant belief in our own righteousness might be the glue that truly binds us together as Americans. This also explains why our political system is designed to make it impossible to impose our will on everyone else.

It’s really for the best. Trust me. As annoyed as you sometimes might be today, our system of governance will guarantee that you will have a nation to call home tomorrow—which should make all the frustrations of being an American well worth it.