Where’s the Gumption?

Americans are a confident bunch. We think of ourselves as the best: the best entrepreneurs, the best workers, the best celebrities, the best innovators—the best. Period.

We believe we’re an industrious, hard-working people who use good common sense and reason to solve problems; people who aren’t afraid to get dirty, to think outside the box, etc.

Unfortunately, none of this is true. Oh we believe it—especially Red State Republican Exceptionalists—but it’s a farce. We’re not the best… we’re actually just sort of mediocre. And the big reason America sucks is that we’re suckers: too many Americans believe dumb things that aren’t true. We’re paranoid panickers that focus on all the wrong signals and find every reason not to bail on the proverbial failboat upon which we sail. Why? Because we’re deathly afraid of change, a people that are as cynical and contrarian and skeptical as it gets.

Proof? Look at the problems we face and the solutions that have been offered. Then, look at the reasons we don’t act. Take, for example, the rise of mass shootings and the prevalence of gun violence in this country.

Solutions offered:

1) Universal background checks—in other words, let’s make sure criminals and insane people don’t have guns.

2) Stricter gun licensing procedures—let’s make sure the people that do have guns know how to use and store them safely.

3) Insurance—guns are dangerous, therefore, let’s make people insure them against potential damages to other people, just as we do with cars.

Reasons we don’t act:

1) Guns don’t kill people—people kill people. I’ve actually heard someone make the fantastically dumb argument that since potentially, people could kill others with a pencil or fork, if we’re going to restrict guns, we ought to restrict those things too.

2) Any restrictions put on guns will just become a slippery slope for the government to take all of our guns—“the guv’men’s goin’ ta cum an’ tak ar’ gins! Bleck Heelicopta’s! Obaaaama!!!”

3) Gun regulations aren’t going to stop all mass shootings, so why bother?

So on the one hand, we have proposed solutions that are practical, reasonable, and relatively non-invasive—solutions that would probably go a long way to curb the tens of thousands of annual gun deaths in this country—and on the other hand, the reasons we don’t act are infantile arguments that rely on speculation, paranoia, and a lack of critical thinking. But we continue not to act, because there’s a lot of stupid people in this country.

Oh, but we don’t just do this in politics; indeed, it would appear it’s becoming a part of our DNA. We do this even when it comes to stuff as trivial as sports.

For instance, there’s an ongoing argument Oregon State football fans are having about whether or not head coach Mike Riley should stay or go. Riley should stay, many argue, not because he’s doing a good job, not because he’s a nice guy, not because he has had some success at Oregon State, but because, “who ya gonna get to go to Corvallis?”

Let’s examine why that’s a dumb thing to say.

Oklahoma is a horrible place to live. So is Tuscaloosa, Alabama. So is College Station, Texas. Think Baton Rouge is Shangri-la? Wrong. Yet those schools and lots of other colleges in small, rural towns do just fine attracting great coaches.

Sure, it’s fair to say that OSU isn’t going to sign the same kind of big name coach the perennial college football powers can (USC, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Notre Dame, etc.), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t young, hungry, talented coaches out there that wouldn’t love a shot to coach in Corvallis, which is, in point of fact, a lovely little town just a smidge more than an hour from Portland, which consistently ranks as one of the best cities in the country for livability. Moreover, Oregon is a fantastic place to live, and while the facilities aren’t what they are in down the road in Phil Knight’s Eugene, it’s not as if Oregon State is a red-neck backwater with lead-filled milk jugs for weights and a dilapidated stadium that holds 10,000 people either.

Plus, at this point, we know what we’re getting from Riley: a team that over-performs it’s mid-40 ranked talent, occasionally has an eight win season but usually ends up closer to 6-6, wins a few classless bowl games from time to time, and puts a guy or two into the NFL each year. We’ll have an offense that relies almost exclusively on pro-style, five and seven step drops, with passing routes that take forever to develop and expose the quarterback—who’ll be an immobile statue—to a lot of sacks, and a defense that is stingy unless it’s up against a hurry-up and/or spread. The play calling and clock management will be bad—at times, bafflingly so. We’ll never beat the Ducks as long as Riley’s here, but sometimes we’ll get close enough for everyone to say, “hey, they really tried. Good for them.”

So the Beavers are mediocre, and they’re going to be as long as Mike Riley is the head football coach.

But because a lot of Beaver fans, Duck fans, and other idiots who think they know something about sports, say, “who ya gonna get to go to Corvallis?” we do nothing.

And that’s basically the same reason we do nothing as a nation to address any of our problems or make any changes in policy whatsoever. Someone proposes a solution, and then the media, the pundits, the politicians (almost always Republicans), and the idiots (also almost always Republicans) start shouting dumb reasons why that solution might not work. And so, we do nothing.

Where’s the gumption? Where’s the good old fashioned get ‘er done spirit that once made this country great? Cause I’m sorry, but we don’t get to the moon by whining and complaining and saying it’s too far. We don’t win World War II by listening to pundits and politicians who have nothing better to do than scare and lie to us. And we don’t get to have opportunity and a middle class in this country if all we ever do is protect the interests of the rich and powerful.

Seriously. We have two choices:

1) Be the country that actually is THE BEST by being willing to take some risks in an effort to solve our problems and make life better for ordinary Americans… OR

2) We can say stupid shit like “who ya gonna get to go to Corvallis” and “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and continue to be nation that’s in love with mediocrity.

I’m gonna go with door number one.

About The Author: Jay Scott


  • Reply Per

    Reminds me of stories my dad used to tell when he was working on the crews building the mid Columbia dams. They were very proud of whooping the swing or night shift by laying more rebar and pouring more concrete over their shift. They were better and they wanted to prove it every day. Now you only hear of the complaints on why anyone should do more, better, different, blah , blah. We lost our passion in a lot of areas in this country. We need to regain our passion to kick butt and take names in education, innovation, manufacturing, the list is endless. Keep up the fight.

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