by Bob Wilson
Jonathan asks: "Are we a nation?"
For the sake of brevity, and in view of the fact that this subject can be quite tedious, my answer is brief. I will leave out a lot of details (many of which you can figure out yourself).
No! We have never been a nation. China is a nation. Japan is a nation. Sweden is a nation. Iceland is a nation. The Cherokee Indians are (or were) a nation. The United States is a federation. The concept of a nation predates the political and practical development of a "federation." By creating a federation, the founders of the United States recognized that within itís confines reside a mixture of races, interests, and political boundaries. There is, and has been since our inception, a considerable power struggle between the various components of our federation.
There has always been an element in the federation which has attempted to "nationalize" the United States. The federal government operates as though we were a "nation" undivided. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, or even your realization of the facts, it has not yet succeeded. Mr. Wallace would advocate that we become a "nation" in the same way other countries have evolved. He might just as well advocate that the poles of a magnet change their nature and become a monolithical unit. It wonít happen without some fundamental structure change which will take with it, the character of this country. It is to our great benefit that we remain, politically speaking, "bi-polar." Just as competition remains the backbone of capitalism, our competing nature which is born of our political propensity to remain a federation of states makes us great. It prevents (or retards somewhat) the sort of political inbreeding which is apparent in so many other "nations" of the world.
You conclude that because we are not a nation, we have nothing in common. But whose proposition is it that we have nothing in common? Not mine.
It seems that, in part, it is our commonality that makes our "federation" work. The fact that we don't agree on a whole lot of issues might just be the essence of our strength. When I look at "nations" which are entirely ( or just, almost) homogeneous in the ways we are not, I see a lot of tyranny which we still (but for how long?) avoid with our checks and balances. You see it in microcosm here in the USA.
Example: There is a community (Mesa Arizona) near my home where about 60% of the people who vote belong to a specific religion. As near as I can figure, smoking and drinking are not so much a health issue (in their religion) as it is a spiritual one. They recently enacted an ordinance which dictates that smoking...even in public places such as the sidewalk or open air public events, is forbidden. (I don't smoke, but tobacco is a legal product, and I believe that people who want to, as long as they don't make me breathe their smoke too much, should be free to...) Restaurants and other business are suffering big time...because people who smoke (about 35% of the adult population) have the freedom to go to the neighboring communities, where the laws are not so restrictive. The issue of smoking aside, this is a small example of the way freedom is eliminated as government becomes ever more powerful. The will of the minority (and in many cases the majority) is subjugated. It was our common regard for freedom that made the USA a great and ultimately powerful "nation." When the essence of freedom is extinguished, as will happen when government regulation of all aspects of our lives becomes totally "pervasive" we will be a "nation" in the way Mr. Wallace envisions. I donít want to be here when that happens.
In our "federation" I have the freedom to avoid being in New York, because I disagree with many of the local laws. I cherish that freedom. I just wish more people who live in New York would stay there, but apparently, they can't stand living in the swill they created either. They are coming out here in droves... which might be OK if they just took a picture of the Grand Canyon, and went home, but they stay. Perhaps they like their freedom better than the security of huge government. (A little Arizona humor.)
If Mr. Wallace believes that we have nothing in common, hence we should loosen the ties that bind our "federation" then I will agree to let him leave the federation, and keep his community (New York) where everyone has everything in common. He can have that Utopia.
Bob Wilson is the pseudonym of a Western businessman who writes regularly for The Ethical Spectacle.