Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

-Walt Whitman

 

America is a land of contradictions: a land of astonishing wealth and grinding inequality, a land that produces brilliant minds and an educational system that lags behind much of the developed world. But in the words of former President Bill Clinton, There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. Here are some of the things that America got right.

Baseball

Like that other quintessentially American export of root beer, baseball can be difficult to appreciate if you did not grow up with it. But it possesses an elegance, a psychological intricacy and a deep intertwining with history that makes it endlessly compelling. Baseball is also democratic, by virtue of the steady averaging out that occurs over the course of 162 games: in that time frame, a player's talent level becomes evident. And yet on a given night, an unheralded rookie pitcher whose stuff is working well can dominate.

Bluegrass

Bluegrass is impressive for the virtuosity required of its musicians. But as a cultural touchstone, it carries with it a deep resonance and continuity. Influenced both by America's Scottish and English roots and by African-American gospel music, bluegrass offers musicians playing a finite set of shared songs the chance to tap into a communalm musical history.

The Adventures of Augie March

The debate over the Great American Novel is appropriately an open ended one, and many people defer to F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. That's a defensible choice, but the philosophical wanderings of Augie March, the book's indefatigable, Chicago-reared protagonist, encapsulate the greatness of America. Shaped by the endless diversity of Chicago's immigrant tapestry, Augie is the every-striving American archetype for whom desire is a moving target, never abandoning the idea that every person is endowed with the capacity for greatness.

The West Wing

OK, so actual governance doesn't necessarily involve incredibly intelligent and witty people trading barbs and then thoughtfully discoursing on democracy as inspiring music swells in the background. But for offering a picture of what government could be at its best, and for great writing that has the characters articulate that, the show makes it on to the list.

Barbeques

Hamburgers and hot dogs (American!) - and any decent steak (which somehow always taste better when grilled in the open air), cold drinks, and hanging out outside. What could be better? And shouldn't you be at one now?