We’ve pedaled 503 miles. But for the pandemic, we’d now have reached our planned inflection point, Missoula, and made a right turn, south to Florence, Montana. We’d be 400 miles from the Utah state line.
Instead, we circled a bit of the East River, from Manhattan to Queens to Brooklyn to Manhattan.
A few days later, we circled part of the Oswegatchie River, from Gouverneur to Rossie to Oxbow to Natural Dam to Gouverneur.
To close our cycling circles, we took right turns at inflection points.
At various inflection points, our country took turns too.
Right turns? That depends.
Since the French Revolution, “right” has meant “conservative”.
Real conservatism is the protection of values.
What are American values?
As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote in another context in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964), “I know it when I see it.” (Your Mileage May Vary.)
Our American values are being trashed. What makes America, America, is disappearing.
Since we last wrote to you, our government, in our names, has been taking steps to ban foreign students who have been accepted for study in the U.S. It slow-walks applications for U.S. citizenship. It repels and expels asylum applicants despite their legal RIGHT to ask for Amerca’s protection. It uses weapons of war against civilians engaged in nonviolent protest. It undermines medical insurance for working people. It contradicts epidemiologists’ advice on how to save ourselves from a pandemic that has killed over 150,000 of our people. It degrades the Postal Service, sows suspicion of elections, declares that all lives matter while valuing some lives more than others, insists that it alone is the arbiter of truth.
America’s admirers around the world lament that America has forgotten its values, lost its soul.
Friends and neighbors say it too. On July 22, a Canadian court invalidated the 2004 U.S.-Canada Safe Third Country Agreement (providing that each country respects the other’s asylum system) because the U.S. no longer protects asylum applicants.
Even before the pandemic, American life expectancy had declined; we were 34th in the world, behind Cuba and Czechia. We are 53rd in infant mortality, tied with Serbia. Upward economic mobility, the “American Dream”, isn’t American anymore; the poor rise more easily in 26 other countries, including Estonia and South Korea. Freedom House has downgraded America’s political system to 86, keeping company with Belize (86), Argentina and Croatia (85), Panama and Poland and Mongolia (84). Norway, Sweden, and Finland score 100.
Public discourse demonstrates our decline. People who disagree with us used to be “well-meaning but misguided”. Now they are “enemies of the people”, deserving imprisonment and death.
Let’s stop the carnage.
Not the mythical carnage spun to justify verbal and physical violence.
Let’s stop the carnage of our values.
Let’s speak up calmly when our neighbors forget that, as the sign in rural Oxbow says:
And let’s remember what really matters. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared to Congress in January 1941:
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.
Support human rights first.