People think that politicians can turn a nation around overnight. Not that the people are to blame. They think that because the politicians all say that. By now, though, I think we should all realize that turning the nation around overnight just isn’t possible. A nation is a very large, very powerful thing, made up of many very angry, very loud people. That isn’t a situation that screams “politically nimble.” That’s okay, though. You know why? Because America didn’t become a superpower by being nimble. It got there by being glacial. America, my friends, is a juggernaut.
Before I explain, let’s make this clear. When I say we’re a juggernaut, I don’t mean that we’re all red spandex-clad man-mountains with fists the size of truck tires and a goofy wok on our heads. That’s only ten, twenty percent of us tops. I’m talking about the namesake of our metal-headed friend. He got his name from a Sanskrit word that means “Lord of the Universe,” which I think we can all agree is a pretty awesome meaning. It entered English in the usual way; we stole it and pronounced it wrong. These days it means “an unstoppable force,” which is a little bit toned down, perhaps, but still formidable. That’s a good description of Cain Marko, and that’s a good description of the USA.
We have survived this long by growing so big that nothing can realistically stand as an obstacle. Sure, we can’t dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge, but who needs dodgeball skills when you can roll over anything in your path? Some people think the problem with the Titanic was that it was too big to swerve and miss the iceberg. I beg to differ. The problem was that it was too small. If the Titanic had been made in the American mentality, that iceberg would never have stood a chance. When you’ve got enough raw inertia, the little things hills, valleys, fences, and pedestrians don’t really worry you too much. And when I say that the US is big, I don’t mean geographical size, though it DOES take up a fairly substantial portion of the map. And I don’t mean population, but there ARE a lot of us. I mean just a general, overall bigness. We have an air of magnitude that transcends normal units of measure. Also, most of us are fat.
To go along with the ponderous nature of our country, we have a certain attitude. Anger. It is a reaction to adversity, assault, and pretty much any other external stimulus. It is the reason terrorism doesn’t work on us. You blow up some Americans, the rest of us get angry and start blowing other things up. Our aim might be off, and we aren’t the most discerning people when it comes to picking targets, but you can be pretty sure that any attempts to frighten us into inactivity or capitulation will lead to a pretty sharp drop in your property values and life expectancy.
I’m not saying that being angry and massive is a good thing. There are many other qualities that would be more conducive to diplomacy and economic policy. What I am saying is that size and and a bad temper are useful. We hit a recession like a monster truck hits a pot hole. We pull together and pound on anything that even begins to threaten us. But the same thing that lets us cope with the storms of economic and financial turmoil like a cow deals with constantly swarming flies makes us difficult to set on the right course once we’ve wandered off. It doesn’t matter who is at the helm, and it doesn’t matter if you are trying to make a right turn or a left turn. The turning radius of the USA is barely within the length of a presidential term even when the wind is WITH us. And as soon as things start to shift, the people who fear change, IE everybody, will swiftly turn that fear into anger and throw their weight in the other direction. Realistically, the only leader who could turn the country around in the time frame that all elected officials seem to tout would be a dictator who seizes control and forces us to comply… but seeing as how it is practically a standing military policy to KILL people who we even suspect to be dictators, I don’t think that sort of person would last too long.
Things are changing, sure. Information has become loads more available, and it has made the nation much better informed. It hasn’t made much of a dent, though. We continue to grind along, flattening mountains and gouging out valleys like glaciers we are. And you know what? I’m glad. There is something noble about hitting rock bottom and saying, “Pff, you call this rock bottom? I’ll show you rock bottom.” and then getting out the shovels. Eventually that hole is going to lead somewhere. We don’t look for a light at the end of the tunnel. We keep on digging the tunnel until we FIND light. And why do we do it? Because we’re the Juggernaut, bitch!