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Life as Performance Art

 “America is an exceptional country,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote after touring the still-young nation in the 1830s. 
Compared to his native France and other nations in Europe, he found an energy and vibrancy here that provided great opportunities for growth and innovation.
De Tocqueville attributed this to parents of our founding fathers placing high emphasis on a classical education and open-mindedness resulting from the Age of Enlightenment.
He credited church here being voluntary, not state-imposed, plus a decentralized government staying out of inventors’ ways.
For example John Deere, hearing farmers complain about how mud and heavy soil clogged their plows, devised one that cut under the sod, not through it. No church or government agent told him that he couldn’t.
Cyrus McCormick, watching farmers harvesting grain fields a few years later, devised a mechanical reaper. His and Deere’s effort led to advancements in agriculture, growth of big-city industrial plants, railroads crossing our land and more.
America became exceptional because it welcomed individualism and free speech. More inventors such as Edison, Tesla, Ford and Jobs were often a bubble off center or unpleasant to be around, but advances they made here flourished.
Free enterprise has been exploited in harmful ways often too. Unbridled land speculation begat wildcat banks printing worthless money not unlike today’s cybercurrency.
Scammers still make out selling snake oil. Remember that well-known elixir for iron-poor blood? It had a trace amount of iron, some B-vitamins and the rest was alcohol. Take a dose with some wishful thinking and you could feel better too.
Con artists eventually caught on that America welcomed innovation but demanded honesty as well. Nor did we accept creative financial accounting, as Al Capone learned when he got sent up the river. That is part of our exceptionalism too.
In U.S. history and civics classes we learned America had citizens worthy of admiration such John and Abigail Adams, George and Martha Washington, Abraham Lincoln and others. We learned of lesser lights who accomplished great things that benefit us all.
We learned how our form of government works, and with it the promise that any boy or girl can group up to be a leader. If we had a sharp mind, applied ourselves and worked hard, we could achieve great things.
We are exceptional also because we can openly speak of leaders’ flaws and foibles. Imperfect people nonetheless can achieve great things.
Although we remain the freest country in the world, there is a dark cloud on the horizon in the form of some two million bureaucrats, not one of them elected, who spend their days auditing, regulating and censoring almost everything so it fits into their groups’ agendas.
Those persons can write a directive (they call it “guidance”) saying backyard vegetable gardens need closer regulation. He or she can decide what may or may not be planted, fertilizers that are acceptable, bog us down with paper and conflicting rules until we decide not to plant at all.
The freedom to think and speak is our nation’s greatest strength, yet there have always been parties who would silence then.
In the post-World War II era, Sen. Joseph McCarthy and others promoted fear communism would take over. That was followed by the Free Speech movement which decreed nothing should be censored, including hardcore pornography or extreme violence on TV and in movies.
Today, being ‘cancelled’ for espousing views some don’t like can mean losing one’s reputation, job and more. In time, others are intimidated to going along with a politically-correct mindset.
Such rearranging facts to shoehorn into an agenda, or bullying can destroy what makes our land exceptional. We have important work to do so we stay this way.

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