It happened, while I was enjoying the Mecum car auction on the Velocity Channel. Since the location of this auction was Southern California, that American icon, the venerable hot rod, was very well represented. I had my moment of clarity while admiring a very sweet ride.
While admiring that utterly American entity, I realized that the hot rod exemplifies many key elements of the American character. Here is a partial list of hot rod related American character traits:
* Our willingness to test/defy the prevailing conventional wisdom
When America was a gleam in a Founding Father's eye, a nation, all nations, were cut from the same mold: powerful, largely unelected, rulers reigned over subjects whose lives were strictly controlled. Conventional wisdom found the concept of a nation comprised of self-ruling sovereign individuals ludicrous. The derision stopped, when our Founders made it work.
A hot rod builder is often ridiculed by 'experts' who are quick to chide, "you'll never make that work". Undaunted, the hot rod builder follows his 'vision', and, eventually, makes it work.
* Our willingness to try something new then learn from our mistakes
Like that American classic, the rugged individual, a hot rod builder takes failure in stride. Experience is an unforgiving tyrant, but its lessons are invariably instructive. If you're afraid to fail...if you can't handle being wrong, you're not cut out for hot rod building. A task that's too simple isn't worth doing. If there's no challenge...if you're not facing a challenge that tests your limits, why bother? Hot rod builders, like all real Americans welcome that kind of challenge.
* Our intensely competitive spirit.
From its inception, America was populated by intensely competitive individuals. Each sovereign individual worked tirelessly to make his, her, hisher or its mark, by pursuing their personal dream. If their dream was a bakery, they didn't simply want to make a living. They wanted to make the best baked goods in town.
A hot rod builder is no different. Once that unconventional ride is finished, the next order of business involves testing the hot rod against others. The hot rod building wants more than a hot rod that works. The hot rod builder wants the fastest hot rod around.
* Our inherent individualism
Intense individualism is solid base upon which the American Character was built. It's what makes us stand out from denizens of all other nations.
Hot rod builders might borrow some ideas from other hot rod builders, but it's only a starting point. The finished hot rod will not be a pale imitation of someone else's ride. It will be something new...something different...something better.
* Our distinctive, pronounced, rebellious spirit
The relentlessly rugged individuals who forged this nation took 'defiance of authority' to legendary levels.
In some cases, the hot rod builders were equally legendary for defying another authority, the federal agents who tried to shut down their 'white lightning' business. They emulated other hot rod builders, by making their ride lighter, faster, so their could out run anything the federal agents put on the road. Many of the most successful hot rod building white lightning transporters took their love of cars and need for speed onto American raceways as stock car racers.
The hot rod was created in America, by rugged American individuals, and it shows.
Wikipedia shared these tasty tidbits about hot rods:
The term seems first to have appeared in the late 1930s in southern California, where people would race their modified cars on the vast, empty dry lake beds northeast of Los Angeles under the rules of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA). The activity increased in popularity after World War II, particularly in California because many returning soldiers had been given technical training in the service. Many were prepared by Bootleggers in response to Prohibition to enable them to avoid revenue agents ("Revenooers"); some police vehicles were also modified in response.
The first hot rods were old cars (most often Fords, typically Model Ts, 1928–31 Model As, or 1932-34 Model Bs), modified to reduce weight. Typical modifications were removal of convertible tops, hoods, bumpers, windshields, and/or fenders; channeling the body; and modifying the engine by tuning and/or replacing with a more powerful type. Speedster was a common name for the modified car. Wheels and tires were changed for improved traction and handling. "Hot rod" was sometimes a term used in the 1950s as a derogatory term for any car that did not fit into the mainstream. Hot rodders' modifications were considered to improve the appearance as well, leading to show cars in the 1960s replicating these same modifications along with a distinctive paint job.
Since the Golden Age of the Hot Rod in the 1930s, late 1940s and early 1950s, the hot rod builders have gone mainstream. At the same time, the American character has been eroded by an unrelenting, well orchestrated, assault. The assault on our character, the suffocation of our individualism has hurled us, back to square one, devolving us from self-ruling sovereign individuals to strictly controlled subjects of a powerful tyrant who doesn't give a damn about: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."
By and large, whenever this subject - 'character' - crops up, it involves a public official, or some other person in a position of authority, whose flawed character has created a newsworthy scandal. It also arises, whenever an election cycle reaches critical mass, and we're forced to punch a chad for the lesser of two evils.
All of that is still in play, but it isn't the primary focus of this rant. Given the sorry condition of this once great nation...given the precarious status of our inalienable individual liberty, I think it's time for some self evaluation. It's time to assess the American Character of that grinning fool in our mirror, We the People Sparky. It's time to confront our own character flaws, then evaluate the role they play in America's sorry condition.
If as some boombox hosts proclaim, our government - local, state, and federal - is infested with 'liars, thieves, and whores', I wonder what that says about us. These liars, thieves and whores didn't find their job in government at the bottom of a Cracker Jacks box. If they're an Elected Tormentor, We the People put them in that position. If they're a bureaucrat, We the People punched a chad for the scumbag(s) who created their job for life position at the public trough.
'Liars, thieves, and whores' begs the question, "What are the descriptors that apply to rank and file Americans."
In this Obamunist Error, the American Character isn't a pretty sight. Self-reliance, voluntary cooperation between sovereign individual, individual accountability, the work ethic, and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps are on the wane, as rugged American individuals become the USA's newest endangered species. In too many cases, the American Character is tainted, by gullibility, envy, sloth, lies, thievery, dependency, self deception, and thuggish intimidation.
To illustrate what I view as a degradation of the American Character, I will discuss some of these character flaws in greater detail.
Gullibility: The healthy skepticism which was a vital part of the American Character has fallen into disfavor. When our Elected Tormentors, accompanied by a suitable fanfare, proclaim their devotion to fiscal discipline, this character flaw makes too many otherwise intelligent individuals believe them. Willfully myopic, gullible Americans ignore the tsunami of red ink poised to sweep over this land conceived in liberty. Instead, we swallow the budgetary bull crap, which, magically, transforms a slight decrease in the GROWTH of Nanny State spending into a Draconian budget cut.
When we're told that America has every scrap of energy producing fossil fuels in full production, too many of us believe it.
When we're assured that our porous borders are fully protected to an unprecedented degree, too many of us believe it.
Dependency: The inherent need to be self-sufficient has been government-schooled out of a depressingly large percentage of Americans. Why? Self-sufficiency means each individual is responsible for the conduct of their own life. For the properly-indoctrinated, government-schooled idiot with self esteem, making all your own decisions is much too hard. Why bother, when the Nanny State is willing to seize control of your life and micromanage it from the cradle to the grave.
Big Nanny State Daddy will 'protect' you from games you shouldn't play on the school playground. Big Nanny State Daddy will 'protect' you, by dictating what you should, and shouldn't, eat. Big Nanny State Daddy will take care of your loser ass, by providing food, shelter, free health care, and pay you for not working. Big Nanny State Daddy will, in short, attempt to remove 'failure' from a 'cooperative' person's life, but the price is high, since the process also removes 'success'.
Coercion/Intimidation: As envisioned by the Founding Fathers, America's national government's actions were strictly limited, by the U.S. Constitution. That fostered an environment where success often required cooperation - sovereign individuals teaming up, voluntarily, to achieve a mutually-beneficial purpose. It also made for the kind of friendly rivalry between competitors that leads to innovation and efficiency, both of which provide a customer with a better product at a lower cost.
When the Nanny State broke out of its Constitutional cage, and grew into the bloated behemoth it is today, it did what all overgrown asshats do, it started throwing its weight around. That bully boy side of Uncle Sam attracted the attention of certain businessmen, who didn't have the patience to compete in the marketplace. Instead, they 'rented' access to the Nanny State's monopoly on the use of force, then used Nanny State power to give them a competitive advantage. Why bust your ass to beat your competitor, when you can buy a Nanny State minion to 'regulate' your business rival out of the market? This obscenity is called 'crony capitalism' and it's what Ayn Rand meant when she stated that "Government regulation is corrupt and corrupting."
Envy: In a bygone era, America's sovereign individuals greeted an achiever's success with a measure of respect for a the ingenuity and hard work it involved. In many cases, an achiever's success would inspire others to strive for their own personal brass ring. You start with an idea, apply some hard work and long hours. When you do it right, you join the ranks of the achievers.
In this Obamunist Error, achievement, success, and a willingness to reap the rewards for your hard work, are viewed with jealousy, distrust, and hatred. Success is a cardinal sin that must be punished severely. If the achievement is academic, the punishment is denying one of our best and brightest a slot in a top university where he, she, heshe or it can flourish. If the achievement is in the business arena, the punishment is the outright theft of the achiever's rightful property, after which the spoils will be divided between the Nanny State 'collector' and the parasite who isn't bothered by receiving stolen goods.
Are America's sovereign individuals destined for history's scrap heap, and a brief footnote in some history book with a readership in the single digits? I hope not, but the possibility is too, too real.
Am I painting ALL Americans with this broad brush? Hardly. I am, however, confronting the reality that more than four decades of government cess-school indoctrination, cultural Marxism, and Political Korrectness have slowly, inexorably, eroded the American character. I'm also warning that the flaws become more widespread, more discernable, with each new generation.
Maybe it's time to 'Hot Rod' the American Nanny State. We could start by ripping out all the unnecessary pieces, to make it lighter, more responsive, much more nimble. Once we've stripped it down to the bare essentials, we'll replace that unreliable engine - Socialism (aka crony capitalism) - with something much more powerful - laissez faire (Marketplace) Capitalism. We'll strip out that old gear box - the one that's stuck in reverse - and put in a beefed up transmission that will move us forward towards a more prosperous future. How will we get that done? For starters, we'll need to kick all those Elected Tormentor lawyers to the curb and replace them with hot rod builders.
Gentlemen, start your engines.