A Critical, Creative and Collaborative Conversation
American politicians often begin their statement of opposition to a proposal from the competing party with the phrases: “The American people think (or don’t think)…” or, “The American people want (or don’t want)…”
In fact, most of these political “leaders” don’t know and haven’t asked what real people think or want, and are merely converting their own narrow views into the appearance of consensus. They stand in front of an American flag and try to promote their biases and rigid partisanship as “adherence to Constitutional principles”.
The purpose of this project is to explore what many American’s actually think about their country, its constitution and how the nation’s founding principles are truly upheld by their representatives. I plan to travel across the country and gather impressions through real-life conversations with Americans.
Since I also wanted to know how people of other nations view the USA and our adherence to democratic principles, I started the 2010 version of this project by traveling to 10 countries (England, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, India, Kenya, South Africa, Portugal, The Netherlands, and Belgium).
On this journey I visited with a wide variety of people: students, business leaders, religious leaders, academics, clerks, taxi drivers, people I met on the street and in pubs, and even an appellate court judge.
In the April and May of 2012 I plan to travel by camper across the USA, loosely following the Travels with Charlie in Search of America path that John Steinbeck took with his dog Charlie in 1960.
I will also take some shorter trips in my country in hopes of immersing myself in a diverse swath of American locales to learn from a variety of people just how they feel about their nation and its place on the world stage.
This project is not meant to be a scholarly treatise; its focus is on the subjective observations of thoughtful people from various walks of life. My hope is to uncover how people at home and abroad understand America’s founding principles, and whether or not they see the nation measuring up to the standards we proclaim are foundational.
The www.peoplesvisionusa.com blog—and a forthcoming book—will explore first-person accounts of what people think are the most important issues facing the world today, and their opinions about how the USA should respond to their concerns.
In the 56 interviews I conducted on the international trip I tried to capture thoughts and feelings—peoples’ impressions—because thoughts and feelings drive political responses to statistics and polling numbers; and, because I am a political/social observer and activist, not a social scientist or a statistician.
I also asked people to share their stories about the hopes and dreams they’ve had for their families, their homeland and the world. The trip across America will follow this same trajectory, except that most of the interviews will spontaneous rather than scheduled.
My fondest desire for this project is that it opens a channel of critical, creative and collaborative conversation about the pressing needs of the USA at home and in relation to our neighbors around the world.
I need your help:
What are the questions on your mind regarding U.S. policies and practices at home and abroad? What do you think the pressing issues are for the USA? What do you think are the bedrock principles that this nation was built on, and how do you think we the people and our elected representatives are measuring up to them?
Please join the conversation by posting your thoughts, comments and questions by going to The Pub. I look forward to hearing from you and having you engage in this important 21st-century conversation.