Exceptional America

We are surrounded by negativity. And yet most people are unaware of the dangers inherent in this morale-eroding Political Correctness. For the most part, people are focused, each day, on making a living. The true significance of what we all are doing is not always apparent. The true significance of our experience is that the era we live in, and the nation we live in, are the most extraordinary in all human history. This is the Golden Age of America.

During the third season of the original Star Trek I coauthored one of the episodes (“The Tholian Web”). I can testify that absolutely no one connected with the show thought that we were engaged in a major cultural event. Yet it was so, as the youth of today will readily tell you. 

Some years before the Star Trek adventure I had the privilege of working, for a few weeks, with Gunnar Edenquist. Together, Gunnar and I solved a difficult engineering problem. This was at the beginning of my real education, the education that began after I graduated from the university. 

Gunnar started his career as a young engineer working, during the teens of the twentieth century, for aviation pioneer Glenn Martin. In Martin’s small California factory, and later as chief engineer of Kinner Aircraft, Gunnar worked with such young luminaries as Donald Douglas the Lockheed brothers, Jack Northrop, Larry Bell, and Glenn himself. Bill Boeing was also in frequent attendance in the early days as he was learning aviation from the Martin crew. Gunnar knew them all.

Consider this: through a single human link, that between Gunnar and myself, we span the entire length of one of the most significant epochs in all of human history. This link extends a direct human experience from the beginning of flight to deep into the space age. Gunnar was born before the advent of flight. Behind the scenes, Gunnar made major contributions to the development of aviation. In carrying on that tradition my focus has been on the development of space technology. Just as Gunnar was friends with many of the pioneers of aviation, I too have been friends with several of the principal rocket pioneers. Both of us have been part of a great adventure and yet my experience, as was his, has been the usual one of day-to-day routine. 

Step back for a bit and survey the past and present of this great nation. America is truly great, and truly exceptional, because it is the world’s most creative nation. Few times in human history has there been such a florescence of human imagination. And never before to such an extent, and for as long, as in this land. America may well be the exemplar of all golden ages.

What is it about America that gave the world a Constitution of genius, unmatched anywhere to this day -- a Constitution which preserves for us all our God-given individual freedoms?

Why is America the cornucopia of invention? Why did America give birth to modern industry? Why was it Americans, and no others, that gave the world controlled flight? Why did an American dream up the assembly line? What inspired our geniuses to invent electric power and electric lighting, atomic energy, the telegraph, the telephone, electronics, motion pictures, television, transistors, the microchip, cell phones, robots, GPS, weather satellites, and the internet? Masterpieces of creative art, all. Who was it that discovered new ways of marketing and of rapidly delivering products anywhere across the continent and across the world? What took us so rapidly to the moon when we decided it was necessary? 

Why do we have overwhelming dominance in science and in Nobel Prizes?

Why did America give the world syncopated jazz and musicals and modern dance, feature movies and the greatest songwriters? What inspired the creation of new forms of storytelling – including animation and graphic novels? Why has American skyscraper architecture transformed the cities of the Earth?

Why are we the magnet for enterprising and creative people from all parts of the world? Why do they all want to come here to live, and to flourish?

And yes, we happily steal good ideas wherever they come from. But we transform them and creatively build on them and make them uniquely American.  And then we generously give them back, very much improved, to the world at large.

Why are we fearsome in battle but magnanimous in victory – lifting the defeated back onto their feet and accepting them as friends? No other nation does this.

What is it about America?

We are different. Let no one say otherwise. 

One answer to this puzzle lies in a unique combination of peoples and circumstances. In this nation there has long been a collision of cultures, ideas and genetic stock and a subsequent melding together of these human riches. All our people were drawn to this nation by the simple idea of liberty. Our ancestors were the most energetic and courageous of the people in the many lands from which they came. It takes guts to cross the sea and dive into a hazardous wilderness of nature or into an alien city where all speak an unfamiliar language. To overcome these risks individuals learned to band together and to work together in fundamentally new ways. Creative solutions to problems were valued rather than scorned as they often were in the motherlands. Creativity became ingrained, first in each of the colonial cultures, and then in the ever growing and flourishing united America.

But there is more to explain American greatness than just the mixing of diverse and enterprising peoples. The essential element is our Constitution.

Though the various colonies differed in local culture and laws they all rapidly developed experience with self-government. These varied self-rule experiments taught our forbearers what worked and what didn’t. This was a unique departure from the remote, totalitarian governance suffered by other colonial societies such as those in Spanish America.

Additional factors were held in common in our colonies: language, liberty, enterprise, a frontier, and constant danger on the land and at sea. Prior experience with these common elements provided the keys to success when the crisis of rebellion arose. Rebellion against the greatest military power in the world could not possibly succeed. And yet it did. It succeeded with innovative solutions to impossible problems. In the aftermath, a generation of brilliant men left their respective colonies and pooled their experience of the revolution, of the risks to their lives, and of their several experiments in self-government, to create the unique Constitutional foundation for our great nation.

By the time of its founding, America had long been a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity. Many of the Founding Fathers were themselves risk-taking entrepreneurs. So a central idea embodied in the Constitution was the deliberate promotion of commercially oriented creative endeavor. For two centuries our Constitution has sheltered and nurtured this creativity and the factors that spurred it on: liberty, competition, cooperation, and reward. America’s commercial and cultural landscape is dominated by corporations, many of recent origin, which started small and grew rapidly because of the value they added to society. But nowadays this fertile growth environment is under serious attack. Many of the most valuable companies are migrating overseas and innovative startups are being suffocated. There is no guarantee that America’s Golden Age will continue.

Across the political spectrum people sense that something is very wrong. Go-along-to-get-along political Washington is dysfunctional. In creating the Constitution, the Founders recognized the dangerous passions that are aroused in reaction to untrammeled government. They therefore deliberately built into the Constitution safeguards to protect against the unlimited growth of the government. But those protections have been progressively stripped away by people who are seduced by power or by self-righteous ideology. The Founders were prescient. America is being smothered in taxes and ideologically motivated regulations and is essentially bankrupt.

But there is another problem. A far worse problem. For half a century or more, our morale has been under deliberate attack by partisans of the Left. This attack is very clever and very dangerous. Break the morale of the country and our nation’s dynamism, our prosperity and our future will be broken, as well. The Left lies. They sneer at patriotism. They distort our history. We are villains. Political Correctness tries to control our thought. Fracturing the American Melting Pot into contending racial, ethnic and economic factions shatters our unity and purpose. 

Much more dangerous than these tactics is denial that America is exceptional. We hear this often, nowadays. We hear it in the schools and the movies. We hear it from “progressive” politicians. We hear it in the News. We even hear it from the White House. People who propagate this fiction are not friends of America, they are America’s adversaries. 

America is exceptional. America is the greatest nation in the history of the world. That is the truth!

We are surrounded by negativity. And yet most people are unaware of the dangers inherent in this morale-eroding Political Correctness. For the most part, people are focused, each day, on making a living. The true significance of what we all are doing is not always apparent. The true significance of our experience is that the era we live in, and the nation we live in, are the most extraordinary in all human history. This is the Golden Age of America.

During the third season of the original Star Trek I coauthored one of the episodes (“The Tholian Web”). I can testify that absolutely no one connected with the show thought that we were engaged in a major cultural event. Yet it was so, as the youth of today will readily tell you. 

Some years before the Star Trek adventure I had the privilege of working, for a few weeks, with Gunnar Edenquist. Together, Gunnar and I solved a difficult engineering problem. This was at the beginning of my real education, the education that began after I graduated from the university. 

Gunnar started his career as a young engineer working, during the teens of the twentieth century, for aviation pioneer Glenn Martin. In Martin’s small California factory, and later as chief engineer of Kinner Aircraft, Gunnar worked with such young luminaries as Donald Douglas the Lockheed brothers, Jack Northrop, Larry Bell, and Glenn himself. Bill Boeing was also in frequent attendance in the early days as he was learning aviation from the Martin crew. Gunnar knew them all.

Consider this: through a single human link, that between Gunnar and myself, we span the entire length of one of the most significant epochs in all of human history. This link extends a direct human experience from the beginning of flight to deep into the space age. Gunnar was born before the advent of flight. Behind the scenes, Gunnar made major contributions to the development of aviation. In carrying on that tradition my focus has been on the development of space technology. Just as Gunnar was friends with many of the pioneers of aviation, I too have been friends with several of the principal rocket pioneers. Both of us have been part of a great adventure and yet my experience, as was his, has been the usual one of day-to-day routine. 

Step back for a bit and survey the past and present of this great nation. America is truly great, and truly exceptional, because it is the world’s most creative nation. Few times in human history has there been such a florescence of human imagination. And never before to such an extent, and for as long, as in this land. America may well be the exemplar of all golden ages.

What is it about America that gave the world a Constitution of genius, unmatched anywhere to this day -- a Constitution which preserves for us all our God-given individual freedoms?

Why is America the cornucopia of invention? Why did America give birth to modern industry? Why was it Americans, and no others, that gave the world controlled flight? Why did an American dream up the assembly line? What inspired our geniuses to invent electric power and electric lighting, atomic energy, the telegraph, the telephone, electronics, motion pictures, television, transistors, the microchip, cell phones, robots, GPS, weather satellites, and the internet? Masterpieces of creative art, all. Who was it that discovered new ways of marketing and of rapidly delivering products anywhere across the continent and across the world? What took us so rapidly to the moon when we decided it was necessary? 

Why do we have overwhelming dominance in science and in Nobel Prizes?

Why did America give the world syncopated jazz and musicals and modern dance, feature movies and the greatest songwriters? What inspired the creation of new forms of storytelling – including animation and graphic novels? Why has American skyscraper architecture transformed the cities of the Earth?

Why are we the magnet for enterprising and creative people from all parts of the world? Why do they all want to come here to live, and to flourish?

And yes, we happily steal good ideas wherever they come from. But we transform them and creatively build on them and make them uniquely American.  And then we generously give them back, very much improved, to the world at large.

Why are we fearsome in battle but magnanimous in victory – lifting the defeated back onto their feet and accepting them as friends? No other nation does this.

What is it about America?

We are different. Let no one say otherwise. 

One answer to this puzzle lies in a unique combination of peoples and circumstances. In this nation there has long been a collision of cultures, ideas and genetic stock and a subsequent melding together of these human riches. All our people were drawn to this nation by the simple idea of liberty. Our ancestors were the most energetic and courageous of the people in the many lands from which they came. It takes guts to cross the sea and dive into a hazardous wilderness of nature or into an alien city where all speak an unfamiliar language. To overcome these risks individuals learned to band together and to work together in fundamentally new ways. Creative solutions to problems were valued rather than scorned as they often were in the motherlands. Creativity became ingrained, first in each of the colonial cultures, and then in the ever growing and flourishing united America.

But there is more to explain American greatness than just the mixing of diverse and enterprising peoples. The essential element is our Constitution.

Though the various colonies differed in local culture and laws they all rapidly developed experience with self-government. These varied self-rule experiments taught our forbearers what worked and what didn’t. This was a unique departure from the remote, totalitarian governance suffered by other colonial societies such as those in Spanish America.

Additional factors were held in common in our colonies: language, liberty, enterprise, a frontier, and constant danger on the land and at sea. Prior experience with these common elements provided the keys to success when the crisis of rebellion arose. Rebellion against the greatest military power in the world could not possibly succeed. And yet it did. It succeeded with innovative solutions to impossible problems. In the aftermath, a generation of brilliant men left their respective colonies and pooled their experience of the revolution, of the risks to their lives, and of their several experiments in self-government, to create the unique Constitutional foundation for our great nation.

By the time of its founding, America had long been a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity. Many of the Founding Fathers were themselves risk-taking entrepreneurs. So a central idea embodied in the Constitution was the deliberate promotion of commercially oriented creative endeavor. For two centuries our Constitution has sheltered and nurtured this creativity and the factors that spurred it on: liberty, competition, cooperation, and reward. America’s commercial and cultural landscape is dominated by corporations, many of recent origin, which started small and grew rapidly because of the value they added to society. But nowadays this fertile growth environment is under serious attack. Many of the most valuable companies are migrating overseas and innovative startups are being suffocated. There is no guarantee that America’s Golden Age will continue.

Across the political spectrum people sense that something is very wrong. Go-along-to-get-along political Washington is dysfunctional. In creating the Constitution, the Founders recognized the dangerous passions that are aroused in reaction to untrammeled government. They therefore deliberately built into the Constitution safeguards to protect against the unlimited growth of the government. But those protections have been progressively stripped away by people who are seduced by power or by self-righteous ideology. The Founders were prescient. America is being smothered in taxes and ideologically motivated regulations and is essentially bankrupt.

But there is another problem. A far worse problem. For half a century or more, our morale has been under deliberate attack by partisans of the Left. This attack is very clever and very dangerous. Break the morale of the country and our nation’s dynamism, our prosperity and our future will be broken, as well. The Left lies. They sneer at patriotism. They distort our history. We are villains. Political Correctness tries to control our thought. Fracturing the American Melting Pot into contending racial, ethnic and economic factions shatters our unity and purpose. 

Much more dangerous than these tactics is denial that America is exceptional. We hear this often, nowadays. We hear it in the schools and the movies. We hear it from “progressive” politicians. We hear it in the News. We even hear it from the White House. People who propagate this fiction are not friends of America, they are America’s adversaries. 

America is exceptional. America is the greatest nation in the history of the world. That is the truth!