The United States, as a nation, is fairly young. Most of our acknowledged founders came from Europe, primarily from England/Scotland/Ireland (because the 18th century included turbulent wars and rebellions between these countries), France and Spain with a few others from assorted other Western European countries. I emphasize acknowledged founders, because they were not the only ones fighting for freedom, nor were these founders involved in creating our country. The unacknowledged founders included many women and so-called “minorities.” I’m not just talking about the wives of the founders nor any minority that filled the roles of slave or indentured servant. Just because your history classes never covered those roles nor acknowledged their existence doesn’t mean they were not involved.
Yet, there is something to remember here. As a nation, we are only 240 years old (if you take the Declaration of Independence the start of our nation as opposed to when our Constitution was signed in 1789, which makes our nation only 227 years old). The foundations of Western Europe were laid at the devolution of the Roman Empire (approximately 500 C.E.), making the nations of Western Europe approximately 1,516 years old.
If we choose 40 years old in a human being to be their reaching middle age and equate the age of Western Europe as with it, that means that our nation is essentially a 6-year-old (for those who like math, the ratio here is 1,516/40:240/x). If we take the founding of our nation based upon Columbus’ “discovery” of America (for those who like math, the ratio here is 1,516/40:227/x) it still only makes us just 13-years-old. Personally, I think we are closer to the development of the 6-year-old given what I see in our cultural development.
Thinking about the concepts involved in childhood development can also be seen on the larger scale of the lifetime of a nation.
As a collective, we are still only in a stage where we are conscious about the “body” of our nation. We have struggled with our concept of Self, not just in relation to the acceptance of immigrants and refugees but to how we deal with the individual differences in our population. Continuing the ratio above, Europe hit the development of a 20-year-old approximately at the same time the Renaissance started. And the wars that ravaged Western Europe through that period, up until approximately the latter portions of the 1700s, match up fairly well with a young individual dealing with the transition to true adulthood.
Why might this be important, you ask? Well, our culture is going through a part of its development that can take us down several paths, just like a child’s development can steer them through phases of positive or negative behavior. Just like that child, the “parent” is perceived in many different ways as the child develops.
Looking at the wars that were fought on our own land, only two cannot be related to an issue between “siblings” (i.e. Mexico and Canada) were the Revolutionary War (equating with birth) and the War of 1812 (first individuation of the child versus the parent). Whereas, the blood spilled on land in Europe has been spilled not only for centuries, but even before its birth as a seperate entity.
At the same time that we were growing, we got into the habit of seeing Europe as a parent who just didn’t understand. If you have children, think about the first time you saw one of your kids rolling their eyes at you. I’ll bet you that it was fairly quickly after they started school.
We are looking around us at this critical point in our history at a nation. We have a number of role models (good and bad) that we can choose to emulate. It is going to require that we ACTIVELY make a choice to steer our nation to a healthy path. Too much apathy encourages negative behaviors, just like neglect by parents encourages bad behavior.
Where do you want to see our nation go? What role model do you see our nation needing? If you don’t choose, those who do not deserve the power will make that change for you.