Anytime you take a stand in life or speak out against injustice, you are going to get noticed, criticized and, most likely, ridiculed. In today’s world of social media and technology, it is easier than ever before to make a positive difference in society, but it is also a lot easier to become a target. I am sure many people reading this have dealt with their fair share of insults, ridicule and hate, and may have been the victims of threats of physical violence or even death.
One of the most popular criticisms I receive from both Americans and non-Americans is that I am biased toward America and its people. I get told a lot that the America I speak about never really existed, that the truth is it is no different from other nations, that it's not exceptional and at times that it really sucks. Sadly, many don’t see America the way I do or have the same mission or focus. While my duty requires me to study and know history, my focus is not on what America was or even is. My time is spent entirely focusing on what American can be, what it must be and what its inhabitants owe to themselves and their forefathers. America is man’s greatest experiment of freedom and individualism, and is a place where dreams can come true for anyone.
As you may imagine, my most recent vacation and speaking tour delivering 16 presentations across eight different states required a lot of planning. I had to book flights, hotels and cars for each location, ensuring I had time to get between each stop.
Everything was fitting together nicely until about one week before the trip, when I had an unexpected freakout.
I was feeling blessed with how everything was fitting together nicely until about one week before the trip, when I had an unexpected freakout. It had nothing to do with planning the events or missing flights or booking the wrong hotel. This fear was a lot worse. Let me explain.
I have had a 20-year love affair with America and I am so passionate about its principles and have a deep desire to give back to this wonderful nation. Having recently received disappointing news of my inability to qualify for a visa to live in the United States, I was emotionally hurting and my feelings were raw.
I had become very protective of everything in my life I was passionate about, and I honestly felt like I could not lose anything else that mattered to me.
On this day, I realized I had a very biased view of America and it was not a positive bias. The only real-time view of America I receive comes from three sources:
- Any media I consume (highly discredited on ALL sides, in my view)
- Talk radio / opinion pieces which are largely political-based
- Americans on social media where everyone seems to love insulting others, spewing hate and seeking their pound of flesh.
What would happen if I arrived stateside and America had become what I saw on the media and social media? What would the future hold if the American people were not the kind, loving, open-minded and optimistic people I grew up loving and defending? What if Americans started acting in everyday life, the way they acted on social media? What would happen if the American society had forgotten to see the human heart and today all they saw was the countless “labels” we have today that have broken down society?
- Left v Right
- GOP v Conservatives
- Trump v Never Trump
- Money / Class
I could easily continue with the societal breakdowns, but I think you get the point.
I sat and reflected and asked myself, how could I make a difference? What was it America needed to hear from a crazy Irish guy? And was I the right one to deliver the message?
My Selfish Fear
As I continued to freak out I start to think in a very selfish manner. If America had changed, how would I feel? Could I really handle losing my dream job with Glenn, the prospect of never living in America and the idea America had stopped being good to each other all in the space of 6 months?
If you are reading this and thinking, "Why is this such a big deal to an Irish guy who will likely never achieve his dream?" The blunt answer is because I am stuck in Ireland and there is nowhere else for me to run to. It’s not like I can say my first option of America did not work out, so I will now move onto option two and try move to another country. I may only have a 1 percent chance of achieving my dream, but there is still a chance.
There is only one America, one country that is an idea, one dream to be free, one country that recognizes everyone has rights.
There is only one America, one country that is an idea, one dream to be free, one country that recognizes everyone has rights that come from our creator and it is government’s role to protect these rights.
Sigh of Relief
Thankfully all my worrying was for nothing. I was in 10 different states with different ideologies (New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Oklahoma) and I received a warm reception in each of those states. America's people on the street saw me as an individual and not as a label. Those I met were warm, friendly, outgoing, optimistic and always helpful.
I tend to be a very quiet and reserved person, but on this trip, I spent some extra time to speak at every stop including the gas stations and places I ate. I really wanted to see what the man on the street felt like and what their thoughts for the future were, but I never brought up any politician.
It’s clear to me that many Americans are worried about their future, they are hurting through price increases, wages staying the same and a sense of lacking opportunity for themselves and future generations. Oddly, the only time politics came up in our conversations, was when someone was trying to highlight how disgusted they were with both sides, and that neither party knew what was important to them, let alone how to fight for them.
It is not the role of an Irishman to warn any American. But for those interested, I have two warnings to share.
My journey was truly amazing in so many ways, but I will admit I am worried about the future of the American people. The America I love and promote is based on the sentiments of Alexis de Tocqueville, who said America is great because Americans are good.
The people on this trip were truly amazing. However, emotions like anger and hatred are not like a switch --- you can’t just flip them on and off. If Americans don’t start reflecting how they treat each other on social media, it is only a matter of time until the people making the comments change how they act in everyday life. It’s inevitable.
I honestly don’t see any way America can exist or be great if its people are not good. I truly hope that day never comes, because truly as a nation America is exceptional because of its people, and its people are still amazing.
To those reading this who are thinking, "How can we win in the future?" Americans today know things are not right. Start having conversations with your fellow Americans about the principles of freedom that are for everyone and stop trying to get them to vote a certain way.
I firmly believe America does not have a single problem today that Americans can't fix. The question is, will you cast your political loyalty aside and focus on principles, or will you continue on the path of “my” party is better than yours?