United, as in United States, is unquestionably the most powerful concept in human organization.
Monday, Feb. 17, is Presidents Day, an event about as meaningful as Groundhog Day. Before the adoption of Presidents Day, we honored George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on their birthdays. They were not just presidents; they were presidents who united Americans.
Thirteen colonies could not govern a nation. George Washington presided over the constitutional convention that united those thirteen colonies. United, the colonies and their citizens multiplied their power and potential becoming, eventually, the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation. George Washington set the tone that made it possible for the colonists to negotiate, compromise, and unite. We have traditionally honored President George Washington for that very valid reason.
Abraham Lincoln led the effort to preserve the Union during a time of crisis. We are a great nation, today, because at the conclusion of the Civil War, we remained the United States, not because we became the disunited states. We honor President Abraham Lincoln for his successful effort to preserve our united-ness, our United States.
If the wisdom of being a united political entity is in doubt, we need only look at the Middle East and parts of Africa where endless divisiveness produces chaos, weakness, and poverty.
U.S. politics are now trending divisive. State legislatures are attempting end runs around federal laws. But fifty states can’t govern a nation for the same reason that 13 colonies couldn’t govern a nation. Issues that affect all Americans should be decided by the U.S. Congress reflecting the will of the majority of American citizens. Among the issues that deserve a uniform national policy are human reproduction, that is, contraceptive policies and abortion policies.
Other issues that warrant national policy include marriage laws, immigration, and voting eligibility. Voting laws are the prerogative of the individual states, but it is time to change that. The rules that govern voting for president or members of congress should be national rules.
Today, 54 percent of Americans live in only 10 states. A substantial majority of Americans now live in urban environments. There is nothing inherently right or wrong about city life or country life, but it does produce a difference in outlook that needs to be reconciled. That rural/urban difference was reflected in the 2008 presidential election. The states carried by then Senator Obama have an average population of 291 people per square mile. The states carried by Senator McCain have an average population of 64 people per square mile. The urbanization of America is a recent development. Our grandparents or parents were farmers or country dwellers.
We are not different from our immediate ancestors, but the urban environment changes our thinking.
We see politicians trying to go directly from kindergarten to President of the United States, grasping for name recognition and power. Grasping for power is an aspect of would-be dictators. Democracy requires diligent compromise and teamwork to find acceptable solutions for society’s problems.
We Americans have a privileged life unequaled in recorded history. If we intend to pass it on to our children, we need to elect officials who are willing to earn their eligibility for personal advancement by governing responsibly.
— Jack Stevenson is retired and now living in Florida. He served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer, retired from military service, and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee. He also worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America. He can be reached by email at Sheavybones@AOL.com.