“So when you ask, “what makes us the greatest country in the world?” I dunno know what the **** you’re talking about. Yosemite?” Will McAvoy ” The Newsroom”

Democrats and Republicans have found their common ground. They agree America is not the greatest nation on earth. Though I can’t be sure, I believe the reasons are different. Many Democrats likely think our refusal to hand out welfare like Sweden makes us a lesser nation and many a Republican blame our slipping in the world to having a “socialist” president. (Here’s a newsflash, with my apologies to the large number of Democrats and Republicans who know better, the US hands out plenty in the way of “entitlement” and the president is not a socialist.)

Like most Americans, I believe the United States to be great, but like most I will stumble on the word greatest. Maybe we’re the greatest; no other nation seems to be doing anything to step up to the plate, but who knows. We do have Yosemite after all; at least for the moment. Last year we didn’t even have that for 2 weeks and 2 days.

I’m not sure we could get Yosemite off the ground today. I’m not sure we would even want to as the threat of keeping the people from their common property seems ever present in our age just as pillaging individual property so that those capable of work, but who won’t can have cable at the expense of those who labor daily. I don’t know what makes TV more important than the Rocky Mountains or Grand Canyon, but it seems to be an American value. Perhaps, no not perhaps, this is why we should hesitate to call America the “greatest.”

This is America’s problem. We have forgotten the first three words of the Constitution….”We the People.” One side of the political spectrum treats wealth as a thing to be horded and the other as something to be handed out. By sides I’m not talking about entrepreneurs and impoverished families, but those who scream everything from “class war” to “bigotry” when what they really want is to ensure as much comfort to themselves as possible at the expense of others.

There was a time we did not ask for this. The creation of our government did not ask for it. In 1787 when America was great, but far from being the greatest, our Founding Fathers gathered together seeing the need for “a more perfect union” that would provide for defense and tranquility as well as liberty and the general welfare. The rights of property and acquisition were to be respected, but the people were to always know provision. Somewhere we forgot this.

John Kennedy asked us, “What can you do for your country?” It was a question posed to both the wealthiest and the poorest. Now the proponents of corporate tax breaks and unbridled entitlement are asking instead, “What can my country do for me?” When Yosemite closed its gates, the right and the left blamed each other, but the fact remains it could only happen in a place where one side goes all Ayn Rand and wants to keep every penny it makes without returning a cent to the land that gave them the ability to acquire wealth to begin with and the other says “I’m entitled to every creature comfort there is, though I contribute nothing in the way of work.”

The harsh truth is this….the right and the left are damned and they are damning America. ”To whom much is given, much will be required.” That’s John Kennedy, no wait that is John Kennedy paraphrasing Jesus who had a preference for the poor and an understanding of the common good. And lest I am wrong the common good is about shelter, food, medicine, and even the mountains and lakes of Yosemite, but not about buying cigarettes and watching Jerry Springer.

In his television tirade, The Newsroom’s Wll McAvoy said “it sure used to be,” when answering the question of American greatness. He is right. There was a time when poor men stood in long lines to do any type of work. There was a time when industrialists ensured the likes of libraries and open space for the people at their own expense even without being taxed out of it.

It is good Yosemite was founded in the much more enlightened time of the late 19th century. It could not happen today. Neither could the Moon Landing, the Transcontinental Railroad, the victory at Normandy, or the abolition of slavery. That is too bad because that is what America is becoming, but it is not who Americans are. Americans are the property holders of the likes of Yosemite and the stakeholders of the Republic who have been locked out of their land and held hostage by extremist factions that control both political parties. Americans are wealthy contributors to charity and single moms working two jobs. Americans are a mostly great people who have allowed the selection of our leaders to fall into the hands of a few Americans who are not great to choose a leadership that does not understand what greatness is.

It does not take much to see there is something fundamentally flawed about a teen making $15.00 an hour at a Seattle McDonald’s just as there is about Walgreen’s thinking it is okay to move to Europe because their corporate tax which is used to feed America’s hungry is somehow unjust. And to be fair I will say it is every bit as unjust that a parent who needs $15.00 an hour has to work fast food instead of making things in a factory just as it is that corporate taxes would be so high as to even make a corporation think of leaving the United States for Europe of all places.

If our leadership does not think it is important enough to encourage industrial development and make it understood corporations owe it to the country of their consumers to pay a fair tax for the common good then I hardly think that they could care if we are allowed to ante up an entrance fee to see Half Dome.

Is America the greatest? If not, it can be again for Americans are the greatest of people. Perhaps we should visit Yosemite and make our leaders do the same remembering when there were those who were not only rugged individuals, but also knew they got nowhere on their own as they held onto one another while driving wagons through the great passes, building railroads and preserving the beauty of the proud land for their children’s children. Perhaps then we can remember when we were the greatest nation and work to be that way again.

Image:  Half Dome by Arian Zwigers, CC License