The Regressive American’s Manifesto


What if a politician or public figure gave a speech like this?

The Regressive American’s Manifesto

My fellow Americans. I always wanted to say that. Truth is most of the time when a person stands behind a lectern and says that classic opening line, we’re not always telling the truth. We’re all here, in America, mostly citizens, but we don’t know each other very well. What you know about me you read in the paper, online, or from hear from other people. We don’t know each other like we used to, in a deep relational way. I could tell you the life story of Tim Tebow, but can I tell you the life story of the person who lives next door… can you? Truth is we’ve lost our sense of community, of living together, helping each other, watching the kids, bartering goods and services, and building tree houses. Or maybe, Americans are doing those things more than ever, and I’m just out of touch, and need to get off the stand. I hope so.

I’m here to tell you today that I don’t have all the answers, can’t heal all the hurts of the country, and couldn’t come close to getting it done in 4 or even 8 years. But, I do have some ideas, and you’ll join me in making our ideas and dreams work, we can all do it together. It’s crazy for anyone to think they he or she has all the answers, but I bet we have at least 1 or 2 of them! I used to be discouraged about trying to change the world, I mean, the world is an awful big place, with billions of people, how can I change it for the better? I was thinking big thoughts, and now, I’m thinking about things on a smaller scale. Because what if we all committed time and effort to making just a couple things better? The way we talk with strangers, or volunteer at the soup kitchen? Could we slowly make each section of the world better? I believe we could.

There is a lot of talk lately about being progressive. Progressive politics, churches, economics, education, and more. Always advancing, trying to better the system, churn out more. As for me, I’m trying to be more regressive. I’m not talking about only white males being allowed to vote, fire and brimstone, and women not working in the boardroom. I’m talking about not always trading up, about contentment, living simply, and staying behind. I love the American work ethic, the can-do spirit that can take a group of British rebels and build a country, a civil war nurse to found the American Red Cross, and a handful of college dropouts to revolutionize computing. Many of us are very blessed, in ways so simple they escape us. Do we have a roof over our heads, clean water, food, and clothing? Right there, we have all that is necessary for life. The majority of the world lives on pennies a day, and minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Now, our brothers and sisters who cannot claim those basic necessities, what can we do to help them? Can we give more of what we have, even old clothes? Make a loaf of PB&Js and pass them out in the streets? Instead of always giving 10% to a charity you can’t see the result of, why not spend that money on all the coats you can buy at Goodwill, then distribute them on a cold night? You see, there’s a dark side of “getting ahead”, and that’s leaving others behind. Our forefathers worked hard, the strength of their backs and the sharpness of their minds providing for the needs of their family and that of the community. For thousands of years, the people worked hard every day together, and shared the bounty. Teepees were not bigger or smaller based on your crop or kills, and everyone prospered. The challenge for us, my friends, is to merge our progressive knowledge in technology, science, medicine, and other disciplines, with the regressive values of community, shared prosperity, and mutual concern.

I can’t promise you that the economy will get better, that things will go back to the way they were, and we’ll all be on our merry way. Truth be told, I don’t want things to go back to the way they were, because I don’t believe we can fight the lure of excess. I want to know if I can be ok with less. Can we look at the chinese art of wabi sabi as an example? Wabi Sabi looks for the beauty in the imperfect, the used, and the things that have served us. The old car that has driven you across the country, that you proposed in, and drove your wife to the hospital in, can it be fixed up and driven more? The sweater that you played pickup football in, but now has holes in the elbows, can it be patched? In Wabi Sabi, we appreciate an item serving its purpose, in a life well-lived, and in the march of time. Where can we make do with less? I know I don’t need 20 t-shirts, I nearly had an entire dresser devoted to t-shirts! I’ll be ok without them, I had to realize that my things, they don’t own me, and I don’t serve them. What are the things that you hold dear, the things you serve. What owns us? Can we live in smaller houses, create more space for nature, and reduce the impact we have on the planet? I believe we can. For years, we have been driven by a desire to get ahead, to have more, to be better, and improve our lifestyle. Not all of these are bad, and I strongly believe that deep down, we know what is good. At my core, I want to do what is good, and I’m on a daily crash course of discovering what that is. No, I still don’t have all the answers, and never will. I need to be checked and challenged regularly, so I don’t get full of myself. Honest friends are the greatest gift we can receive.

I have my ideas, and each day, will strive to do what’s best for this world, this country, and its people. But it can’t be all about me. The power to change the world lies in your hands. I need your help, and we all need each other.

Thank you, and God Bless

Written by Matt Ragland – mcragland@gmail.com

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