The United States is a victim of its own creation. That may sound a little strange until you analyze how the country came into being, how it grew, and what both of those processes did to the resulting entity known as the United States of America.
I should add quickly that in this blog I am talking about the current state of the United States The indigenous population, the Native peoples, make up less than 5% of the current population, so my discussion will center on the immigrant population only. The fact that the immigrants tried, quite successfully, to eliminate the indigenous population does not affect this analysis, however abhorrent that process was.
The U.S. we know today was initially created by small religious groups seeking freedom to live their lives according to their beliefs. Those groups, which included the Pilgrim Fathers, were predominantly British. As news of this colony reached the authorities back in London, they decided the newly discovered lands would make an excellent penal colony; a British penal colony.
As the news spread of opportunities in these new lands, people from other European countries decided to emigrate, and the population of the future U.S. began to diversify. The ruling class, the land owners, were still predominantly English, and that was true up to the U.S. War of Independence, and far beyond. Homogeneity was still maintained at the ruling class level because they were the dominant land-owners, but the general population was diversifying rapidly as wave after wave of immigrants arrived. This diversification was augmented by the slave trade in terms of numbers but, obviously, not in terms of influence.
The creation of the United States after the War of Independence, accelerated this trend of diversification. The original homogeneity declined even more rapidly.
The resulting polyglot of cultures and languages was, quite possibly, the major factor in the meteoric success of the new United States in an economic sense. That economic success, in turn, led eventually led to power and world leadership, accelerating after World War II.
However, that rapid growth also contained the seeds of the division and malcontent that we witness today in U.S. politics. With the power of hindsight, it is totally predictable that the divisive mess we have today was inevitable. Two hundred and fifty years is a heartbeat in the process of establishing common ground for a human population of any sort. It is less than a heartbeat when you consider trying to homogenize so many different influences into a new national culture. As I said at the beginning, the U.S. is a victim of its own creation.
In some ways, the creation of states, and the “States’ Rights” movement that resulted, was an attempt to grapple with the size of the national culture issue by breaking it down into a more manageable size; 48 issues rather than one. However, that understandable attempt at simplifying the process actually made it worse. In many ways, the U.S. is not a country, it is just a collection of states that have decided to work together…..some of the time. To be fair, most of the time.
The current political mess in the U.S. has highlighted the danger of allowing a growing level of diversity to exist without taking steps to ensure that it doesn’t result in chaos.
There are many possible solutions to this dilemma but one, I think, that could mitigate this chaos, could be legally requiring all eligible citizens to vote. That would at least help eliminate the possibility of minority fanatical groups deciding the fate of the majority. Today’s situation is a frightening example of how easily that can happen when far less than a majority of eligible voters actually vote. Admittedly, requiring voting would be forced responsibility, which contradicts individual rights but, perhaps the survival of democracy depends on instilling that citizen responsibility. An education system that emphasizes ethics, civics, integrity, and community responsibility would also help.
I have to say, again with the perspective of hindsight, that strict adherence to individual freedoms, which the U.S. population has come to believe is its birthright, may well be a path to anarchy and disaster. That would have been difficult to predict at the beginnings of the nation but today’s increasing mess brings home to roost the result of emphasizing individual freedom over community responsibility.
Being a victim of its own creation doesn’t necessarily mean the U.S. has to remain a victim. It has the power, it has shown the resilience, and it has the resources to change its current decline. All it needs is the vision and will to make the hard choices necessary to save itself.