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Why America is Good and Great

November 27, 2016

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Negativity is corrosive. It eats away at one’s spirit, slowly weakening an individual’s outlook on life to the point that all seems to be lost. It’s a travesty to watch.

When it occurs at a collective level, such as within a community or even that of a nation, then a serious state has been embraced by citizens.

The United States of America, the world’s oldest contemporary democracy, has been undergoing a serious corrosion of its spirit and will to be the free leader of the planet. The two-year lead-up to the November 8th national election proved to be a national nightmare, out of a bad B-rated movie. And it wasn’t just an issue with the Republican Primaries and subsequent contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The Democratic Primaries were a sordid testimony to deceit and manipulation, with the victim being Bernie Sanders and his supporters.

As if this two-year endurance test of people’s tolerance wasn’t bad enough, the results of the election have led to protests and riots not just across America but here in Canada. Not riots per se, but protests and numerous instances of racial abuse hurled at non-white Canadians. It’s sickening to read reports about this—Canada, allegedly the land of tolerance, opening its arms to immigrants.

But people have forgotten just how wonderful so many Americans are. Sure, in a country of some 320 million you’re going to encounter idiots, assholes and racists. Canada surely has its share, with a small population of 36 million. Americans are hugely generous people, as witnessed by $358 billion in donations in 2014.  According to GivingUSA this was the highest level reported in its 60 year history. In contrast, Canadians donated $12.8 billion in 2013 (Statistics Canada). That’s $350 per Canadian compared to $1,118 per American.

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Reflect on the kindness that’s shown on a daily basis by Americans towards one another, and especially those in need. For many years I’ve watched CBS Sunday Morning, an excellent program covering current events, arts, culture, entertainment and people. It’s the segments dealing with fascinating regular Americans that I find so captivating. These vignettes portray people who have conquered adversity, or helped those in periods of pain and despair, or unconditionally donated their time to improve something in their community.

Just recently on Sunday Morning, the last story was about an amazing man in Tampa, Florida, who self-initiated to clean the headstones of veterans. Andrew Lumish (pictured) arrives at a cemetery with a scrub brush, toothbrush (for detail work) and a plastic container of water. And he goes to it using good old fashioned elbow grease. The results of his work are amazing. One headstone dating back to 1917, covered in moss and dirt, looked new by the time he finished with it.

What drives a fellow like this to do this type of work? No one asked him to do it. He receives no compensation for his efforts. But he’s immensely satisfied with what has become his passion. As Lumish explained in his interview with CBS:

“If they can’t read it at all, they can’t celebrate it, they can’t honor that person, they can’t appreciate that person. Whereas if you properly restore the monuments, you can begin an entire conversation, and potentially—in a figurative sense—bring that person back to life.”

This is personal leadership in its finest form. No big-shot CEO or some prominent community leader getting the attention. Just a regular American fellow who doesn’t ask or expect anything in return for his efforts.

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It’s unfortunate that most of the news stories we watch on TV or read in print or online deal with the negative. The motivating stories, such as the one shared above, are few and far between in the media—but they’re all around us every day. Indeed, the media can legitimately wear the label of purveyor of fear, narcissism and hate. Nowhere enough attention is given to those events and stories that reflect the goodness of the human spirit and what people can learn from expressions of kindness, love and generosity.

Again, it’s about personal leadership

If the United States is to turn the corner on this ugly episode in its 240 year history, then 320 million people will have to learn how to respect their differences while working towards the same vision of living in a wonderful country. A nation built on immigration, diversity, and hard work through entrepreneurship.

More positive story-telling is needed. There are so many good news and heart-warming stories across America that they would eclipse the negative if only allowed to be shared. Doing so would help stop the corrosion of a nation’s spirit and, hopefully, contribute to its rebirth through collective healing.

The journey in between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life really takes place.

—Barbara De Angelis


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