On What Makes America Great

“Monday Musings” for Monday November 14, 2016
Volume VI No. 46/306


The Beautiful and Exceptional America,

And What to Do to Make It More Beautiful

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

The elections are over. The people have spoken. We have a new President and will have a new government starting Jan 21, 2017. We should respect the process and the rule of law that distinguish America as an exceptional nation. I grow impatient and intolerant of those who malign America. Contrary to some men who “damn America”, I believe that God has blessed America.

Eric Sevareid, one of the most respected commentators and sages of the fifties and sixties television, when the monster box had some redeeming features, said that if you open up the gates of all countries in the world and allow people to go where they please, they would choose USA and Germany. Things have changed very little since the 1950s. People from all over the world want to come to America. The tsunami of immigrants, while horrifying and threatening, also points out the desirability of American citizenship. America, in spite of all the bad press, declining dollar, looming financial depression, remains a beacon, a bright beacon, for liberty lovers and freedom seekers. Also, America’s strong diversified and vast economy provides possibilities, promises and opportunity for self-fulfillment. A friend who recently visited Mexico tells that in some villages and small towns, there are no men, only women and children. Their men are in America working and sending money home!

America is decent because unlike Pax Romana that conquered, destroyed and gorged smaller nations, in an unprecedented manner in the history of Neolithic man, uses its power to bring justice, democracy and equality to mankind. What country on earth would change from bigotry and prejudice prevalent in the fifties to have a black man for President? Where on earth offers its immigrant citizens the opportunity to meet their maximum potential educationally, spiritually, socially, financially and emotionally. It is astonishing to see the son of an immigrant Kenyan as a US Senator and now US President. America and American scientists tamed the wild killer of the early 80’s, Autoimmune deficiency Syndrome, AIDS, and now working on a cure, all in fewer than 30 years. These are the unparalleled attributes of America, a nation of immigrants that is nowadays so undeservedly maligned. Looking at the election of a president in Kenya where opponents fight with bullets killing and stranding thousands of innocent citizens should give us reason to be grateful for our system of debate and ballot over guns and bullets. America’s supremacy of “the rule of law” is the envy of the world.

However, what is scary and threatening is the deterioration of America’s values and culture. Values that God through a deliberate plan commissioned the founding fathers of our country to devise, articulate and enshrine the US Constitution, values like the supremacy of rule of law, like primacy of education, pedagogy and patriotism and personal responsibility. Alas, these values are being gradually replaced by a culture of dependency, martyrdom, victimhood and entitlement and politicians who encourage the erosion of America’ values by promising more and more and rewarding the delinquent behavior of self-indulgence. May be the new administration will reverse the course.

Several years ago in this space I reviewed a book, a fascinating book “Take the Risk”, by an honorable and honored African American colleague, Ben Carson, MD, Emeritus Professor, pediatric neurosurgeon at John Hopkins and a candidate for the US Presidency. He was one of 16 Republican candidates who lost in the primaries. I dusted off the book and re-read it. It makes the reader aware of the greatness of America. Ben, as a person, truly epitomizes the fulfillment of American virtues, and what it means to be an American. Ben has performed numerous delicate neurosurgical operations at Hopkins and throughout the world, including separation of twins conjoined in the head and brain. He is a consummate physician, skilled neurosurgeon.

“Take the Risk” is absolutely inspirational. It talks about how education and education alone, rescued him from the depth of a segregated neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan, marred by drugs, gangs etc., to become one of the world’s most eminent neurosurgeons. He emphasizes (and admonishes) that America is on the slippery slopes of abandoning education and replacing it with sports and entertainment. He argues that America is producing fifty thousand engineers a year, while we need 350,000. How much longer can we import engineers form Bangalore, China and other developing nations. We are NOT producing nearly enough scientists. America ranks below Ethiopia and Somalia in math and basic science tests, and we do not know much about our own history, language, arts, and basic humanities that connect us with the rest of the world. Look at our daily newspapers, the sport section is the fattest, followed by the entertainment section. We reward coaches with enormous salaries and perks, often in the millions. Yet a dedicated professional teacher who trains and prepares our children for college education and for life makes a meager salary and is often unable to make ends meet. The book “Take the Risk” is a wakeup call worth reading by parents, educators, rabid sports fans and university Chancellors.

Finally, I believe every American child ought to memorize the 7200 words of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist papers and GW’s 6091-word-Farewell-address to gain an appreciation for the responsibility of being and American. These four documents are the civic catechism of our beloved nation and, in my view, every child by 9th or 10th grade, ought to memorize them.


*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association; Life Member, American Medical Association; Life Member, Southern Medical Association; and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a Raleigh, North Carolina writer and dramaturge and the 2016 winner of the NC Award in Fine Arts.

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