Some folks can’t stop talking about Pickleball! It’s said to be the fastest growing sport in America. As a cross between tennis and ping pong, even pro athletes like Tom Brady and LeBron James have invested in upstart teams. But this might not be something you’ll hear discussed at a campaign debate between political candidates or street debate at the corner store.
What’s been in news coverage lately are stories of antisemitic remarks and digital banners, threats of political violence and the buyout of Twitter by Elon Musk. There’s concern that the platform might become a free speech runaway train without accountability. What folks are talking about will often give us a sense for what’s poppin’ in America socially and commercially. But the convo might not always give enough of the backstory for why some are so polarized. This takes having a window into the soul of America.
When See America In Color (SAIC) was launched, it came out of national news stories that caused a deep dive to better understand the issues. This involved combining American history, the ‘Black to America’ story and #HometownStrong comebacks. With Thanksgiving season on the minds of retailers, let’s go as far back as the arrival of the Puritans on Massachusetts Bay. Before their arrival we had merchants who landed on Virgina Bay. The Puritans had a sense of community, while the merchants were about commercial activity. It seems we’ve always had a push & pull of community vs commerce.
This has played out in ways that led to the American Revolution (Boston Tea Party), the Three-Fifths Clause (Second-class in the Constitution), Civil War (Institution of Slavery), Segregation (Jim Crow laws) and so on. The backstory shows the struggle between community and commerce has been an ever-present theme throughout America’s journey. Now, there’s nothing wrong with driving commerce. The problem arises when commerce is pursued at the expense of demeaning, dehumanizing and demonizing others. These days we’re at a point where personal attacks on ‘the other’ has become the latest effort to gin-up clickbait commercialism, which has some folks going down the road that divides and polarizes.
The standard ways we become divided include disinformation/ideology, hypocrisy of differences, injustice & inequality. But there’s something that stands out from our history that might serve as a counter-narrative as well as a kinda checks & balance. It’s in how we can use back-in-the-day lessons to create a shift in citizenship and leadership, like three founding fathers did in writing the Federalist Papers. That’s why SAIC recently celebrated National Civics Day to serve as a rallying point for a new push in civic engagement and public good in America. We’re taking things even further with a new:
1. Civic Ideal – “To The Mountaintop”
As far back as the puritans, America was described as a “city on a hill.” That term has been referenced by many presidential candidates from JFK to Obama. Even Reagan put his spin on it by describing America as a “shining city on a hill.” However, Dr. King came at it slightly different in his last public speech where he said, “I’ve been to the mountaintop.” What if that became a new civic ideal for getting us as a community to the mountaintop in market value and civic voice? We’d find ways to better leverage resources, share mutual uplift and collaborate in skillset to enjoy the promised land.
2. Culture Motto – “Out of Many, In Town & Country”
After America’s founding, the country’s leaders and other public figures thought it was important to come up with a unifying message or slogan. The Latin term E Pluribus Unum, meaning “One from Many”, became the basis for that mantra to help with the colonies having a feeling of togetherness. How might we apply that example to today’s cultural climate? Well, SAIC believes “Out of Many, In Town & Country” might capture the feeling of togetherness we need today. It so happens that in my hometown, one can travel on state highway Rt-27 and go from town to suburb to exurb to rural within a 20-25 mile stretch.
3. Renewed Purpose – “Producing America’s Finest Hour”
Think about the media intensive world these days of broadcast, cable and streaming. There’s so much programming to choose from that our heads spin. Not enough free time in the day to get it all in. Most folks involved in show production would want to make sure they’re bringing the best programming possible. Some seem to prefer going down the road of best in hate, lies and deception, while others take the path of best in hope, laughs and passion. But what if the broader approach we take as a nation is the idea of “producing America’s finest hour”? That might help to deliver a renewed sense of purpose.
4. Breakout Movement – “Here to Level-up the Nation”
Throughout history we’ve had breakout movements during different periods. The KKK for example was a breakout movement of intimidation and fear. The ‘lost cause’ movement came out of the Confederates losing the civil war against union soldiers. The civil rights movement was in response to the Jim Crow era. But the current anti-democratic breakout movement seems to defy logic and deny truth. The real breakout movement needed today is one that’s here to level-up the nation. Even with our faults and frailties since founding, the original breakout movement was about moving towards a more perfect union.
So the fact that pro athletes and other celebrities are pouring-on money into Major League Pickleball gives us a clue about the commercial appeal. They also know that a sense of community can only be maintained by having opportunity and inclusivity as part of the gameplan. It’s a combination that can lift me up, lift you up, lift us up. If only we could spread this message for the public good of community and commerce, like ten cane rows deep? We’d get to the mountaintop, out of many in town & country by producing America’s finest hour to level-up the nation.
To find out more about how you can “J.A.M. With Us” in civic engagement, social change and community life, checkout the Sign-up Center with flyers and QR codes below. Learn more about the K-12 Social Challenge Contests and College Breakout Day.
Tracks: Rihanna – Lift Me Up – https://youtu.be/Mx_OexsUI2M
Protoje Ft Jorja Smith – Ten Cane Row – https://youtu.be/xcjfpDN0xyE