The Earth’s crust is 20 to 30 miles thick. This is a darn good thing, because there is a godawful lot of stuff in it—especially here in North America.
We have this on the authority of prominent public figures such as Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. In a recent Op/Ed column McDonnell blasted the Obama administration’s shift in welfare policy. “Our nation,” McDonnell wrote, “was built on a commitment to the dignity and necessity of work.”
But that’s not all our nation was built on. Nosirree. According to House Speaker John Boehner, “America is a nation built on freedom.” Majority Whip Eric Cantor agrees: “America was built on a culture of opportunity,” he told an audience at Harvard. Rep. Randy Forbes thinks likewise: “Our nation was built on the premise that we are the ‘land of the free,’ and that includes economic freedom.”
From statements such as those, you might conclude Republicans have a pretty good idea what America was built on. Well. To quote Abby Bartlett in “The West Wing,” you can just “stand there in your wrongness and be wrong.” Back in April, President Obama told an Ohio audience Republicans “don’t seem to remember how America was built.”
But the President sure does! “America,” he says, “was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity.” And “the promise of equality and full participation for all.” Also, “America was built on innovation,” and on “the hard work and ingenuity of our people and our businesses.” Not to mention “a belief that the best progress comes from ordinary citizens.” It’s all right there in the archives, go check it out.
Of course you would expect Obama to say stuff like that. But Ginny Meerman knows better. Meerman is a beauty pageant consultant who got so fed up with the liberal pantywaists who run beauty pageants that she decided to start her own. Last month she launched (I swear I am not making this up) the Miss Conservative U.S.A. Pageant. As she sees it, “America was built on conservatism, not liberalism, and here we are. Booyah!”
It’s not entirely clear why so many people feel the need to explain what America was built on. It is entirely clear, however, that the country always seems to be built on ideas they happen to embrace. You never seem to hear anyone say, “I don’t believe in such-and-such, but hey, that’s what America was built on. Whattaya gonnado?”
What else was America built on? “Christian principles” (Idaho Rep. Bill Sali); “Christian and Jewish values” (Texas state rep. Debbie Riddle); “biblical principles” (Oklahoma pregnancy center member Shelly Louis); and “the Bible” (Warren Delafield, a supporter of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy). Five bucks says none of them is a Taoist. Of course, many people insist America was emphatically not built on Christian principles, but none of them goes by “The Rev.”
It should be noted that not everything America was built on was good – heavens, no. Just ask Bonnie Greer, who contends, in London’s Guardian, that America was built on racism. Then there are those who say America was built on slavery – although it is hard to find the original authors of such statements. Mostly what you find are conservatives who say things such as: “The ‘America was built on slavery and genocide’ meme is a central pillar of leftist anti-Americanism” (Hollywood writer Mark Tapson).
Now you might be wondering: If America was built on all this stuff, is there anything it was not built on? Of course! America was “not built on the generosity of the federal government” (Rick Perry). America was “not built on football mania” (Janine Turner, Washington Examiner). It was “not built on hate” (Cardinal Theodore McCarrick). And it certainly was “not built on victims” (Republicanloudmouth.com).
Just as he knows what the country was built on, President Obama also is an expert on what it was not built on. For example, last month he told a Jacksonville audience that “this country was not built on top-down economics.” Also, “this country was not built on greed.” What’s more, America was “not built on how much we consume or some sort of Ponzi schemes.”
That clears up a lot. Still, many questions remain. For instance: How was America built? How was it not built? What built it, and what didn’t? Who built it, and whom did they build it for?
The president can answer some of those questions, too: “America is not built from the top down,” he said a few days ago. Letting insurance companies “decide to drop your coverage when you need it most” is “not what built America.” And just in case anyone thought otherwise, the president wants to make the following perfectly clear: “America was not built by any single individual. We built it together.” Who knew?
As for the other questions, they will just have to wait until his second term, if there is one.