The Theory of American Everything Part 2: A Historical Lesson

My oldest son made a claim a few weeks ago, one I’ve heard before from elsewhere: if Trump wasn’t president, the Covid-19 pandemic wouldn’t be as bad. So I proposed a counter argument. How would things have transpired if Hillary Clinton had taken office instead? What would have happened if a highly contagious outbreak began during her first term in office? Most people agree the Coronavirus would have arrived regardless of who led the USA. Everyone knows Clinton’s response would be vastly different than Trump’s and probably more aggressive. While the medical community and experts in communicable diseases are nearly unanimous in the belief a more aggressive approach was needed, I asked my son if that would have made a difference. 

Let’s pretend for a moment we had a President Clinton instead of a President Trump. Hypothetically speaking, in late winter/early spring break when we first learned how bad the Coronavirus as going to be, President Clinton issued national shelter in place orders, mask mandates, and contact tracing. How well would it work? People violated and protested the stay at home orders that actually happened, they would have done the same if those orders came from a presidential decree - perhaps even more because they’d see it as federal overreach. Many of the people who refuse to wear masks now would still refuse to wear them under a President Clinton. Today, anti-maskers are against masks in support of Trump; had November 2016 happened differently, those same people would be against masks in opposition to Clinton. Americans would be resistant to contact tracing under President Clinton under the idea it violates privacy, a value sacred to many Americans. Half of this nation’s population would oppose anything she tried to do to contain this virus because she’s a Democrat. Science be damned, this is politics. 
It’s possible, even probable that Hillary Clinton’s approach to handling a pandemic would have been better than how Trump dealt with it. However, I don’t believe her efforts would have mattered. The people who aren’t currently taking this pandemic seriously are the same people who wouldn’t take it seriously if Clinton was president. Even with her improved response, America would still be struggling to get control of the situation, people would still be getting sick in large numbers, thousands would still die, and half our population would blame Clinton for every COVID related death. 

As Christian and I discussed this hypothetical scenario, he asked me, “Why are we this way?” 

While it is easy to blame Trump for everything that is wrong with America, I think such an accusation is a scapegoat. I don’t believe Trump is the disease, rather he’s a symptom of the disease. If we want to know why we are this way, we must look deeper than the president. I believe we are the way we are because we were designed this way. 

I asked Christian, “Who founded America.” His answer was “a bunch of old people” but that’s not exactly true. Our founding fathers are younger than we imagine them. Alexander Hamilton was 21 during the summer of 1776. A dozen singers of the Declaration of Independence were under the age of 35. So I repeated my question but he couldn’t think of an answer.

“They were rebels.” I answered for him. 

The Declaration of Independence is a treasonous document written by a people rebelling against their government. Consider a nation founded in protest and defiance. Wouldn’t that rebellious nature remain in our national spirit centuries later? ”Well, our founding fathers threw tea into a harbor, of course we’re gonna shut down freeway traffic. It’s the American way!” 

We Americans possess disdain for authority. We don’t like being told what we can or cannot do. However, even with defiance in our DNA, finding national identity with a figurative middle finger in the air isn’t enough to explain why we are the way we are. The act of rebellion that birthed the United States is important to my theory of American everything. However, to truly understand what makes us us, we must understand what was promised us by our rebellious founders. 

Our founding rebels wrote three revolutionary documents to shape this new nation they created. First was the Declaration of Independence, followed by the US Constitution, then the Bill of Rights to amend the Constitution. Through these documents, America told King George III to GTFO and set the example for all Americans to follow. The answers to why we are the way we are is also found in these documents. 

The Declaration of Independence proposes an idea of self evident truths. The first truth is we’re all created as equals. The second is we’re granted inalienable rights by our creator: rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The third truth asserts a government’s purpose is to secure our inalienable rights. This document isn’t canonized as law; it’s more a letter of intent or a formal request for separation from a tyrannical government. It demonstrated the state of mind of those who would form the laws to guide this new nation. 

Laws were created in the constitution and the amendments to follow. The first amendment, found in the Bill of Rights promised Americans freedoms of religion, speech, press, and assembly. United States law permits our citizens to believe whatever we want to believe, say whatever we want to say, print and broadcast our beliefs and thoughts in any available format, and go wherever we want to with anyone who will join us. 

Granted, there are limits. When we gather or travel, our freedoms are limited to public properties. When we speak, we can’t shout fire in a crowded room. When we express our beliefs, we can’t prevent criticism or contradictory ideas. Yet, as long as we work within reasonable boundaries, we legally possess a wide liberty unavailable in many countries. 

Consider the implication of these elements combined. We are a population with a rebellious streak hardwired into our cultural DNA and we’ve been given the freedoms to do, think, say, and believe anything we want for the sake of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is our foundation. We built the wildest house upon those concrete footings. 

I can believe what I want in the interest of my life. I can say anything on my mind to protect my liberty. I can go anywhere I desire in pursuit of my happiness. You and every other American are also free to do the same. Of course, there are consequences and we don’t always enjoy consequences. While freedom is a core American value, accountability is not.


  1. fantastic post and very thought provoking. I'd argue that when he told "his people" that the virus was a Democratic hoax to make him look bad and never set up a realistic centralized group to control and monitor - something that may have taken away from the false narratives, Trump made things dramatically worse but I'll concede the point that we will never know and that it's just our American nature, whatever that means, that caused us to be where we are today

    1. I fully agree the combo of conspiracy pedaling and inactive avoidance definitely made things worse.