Yes, I Can and I Will
Natalia J. Garland
There used to be a saying: if you got it, flaunt it. And, some
people would reply: if you really got it, you don't have to flaunt
it. What is it? Usually, it is a major purchase such as a
car, possessing extravagant wealth, looking gorgeous or having a
shapely body. The point is that people who lack confidence need to be
the envy of others. People who have confidence, however, can balance
wealth and beauty (or the lack thereof) with other attributes of life,
and can relate to others in a considerate manner.
Lately, a certain
political slogan has become a saying: that is, a phrase packed with
power and intended to guide or add wit to the course of daily life.
Yes, I can. Only three words. But, like frozen orange juice
from concentrate, you have to add some water to appreciate the flavor
and make it digestible. What does can mean, and what is the
it that can be done?
There seem to be two
ingredients in the yes I can or yes we can saying. First,
there is the psychological, self-help ingredient. The saying helps
people to feel good about themselves. There is a motivating and
empowering impact. Second, perhaps like the We Shall Overcome
song of the 1960's, the saying is intended to help people overcome
societal barriers. In the 1960's, of course, the barriers were obvious
and intolerable: racial prejudice and subjugation of women. There was
a direct connection between the meaning of the song and the purpose of
the political movement. What are the barriers of the 2000's?
And, how are these barriers to be broken?
Unlike the we shall
overcome attitude of the 1960's, the yes I can attitude
seems to have a smug, defiant, or rebellious quality. Some possible
interpretations are as follows. (1) Yes, I can cross the U.S. border
illegally and get away with it. (2) Yes, I can pressure the U.S.
government to give me citizenship. (3) Yes, I can get the things I
need or want through government programs. (4) Yes, I can flaunt my
working-class status as nobler than the middle or upper income classes.
(5) Yes, I can protest in the streets. (6) Yes, I can demand immediate
withdrawal from Iraq. (7) Yes, I can criticize. (8) Yes, I can vote
without understanding policy details. (9) Yes, I can because I can.
Americans do not agree
on what constitutes a societal barrier in the 2000's. Just because you
can, that does not mean it is good or right. For example, parents will
often encourage a child with remarks such as you can do it! The
purpose is to guide the child to utilize his mental capacity and to
develop skills. The encouragement is intended to produce concrete
results and to render the child independent. Capability, especially
between parent and child, can become a negative process or battle.
Some children quickly learn how to use the power of words against
adults. No! You can't make me! True. Most adults are not
going to physically force a child to do something. Parenting is a
difficult job, and some children just seem to test this.
The absurdity of the
yes I can saying can be illustrated as follows. If you can,
then so can I. (1) Yes, I can build a border fence. (2) Yes, I can
protect national sovereignty, place quotas on immigration, and
influence foreign policy. (3) Yes, I can set reasonable limits on
government assistance programs. (4) Yes, I can accumulate wealth and
still be a caring person. (5) Yes, I can sign petitions and send
e-mails to elected officials. (6) Yes, I can support victory and
democracy in Iraq. (7) Yes, I can analyze your criticisms. (8) Yes, I
can expose political candidates whose policies are contrary to reason.
(9) Yes, I can because I place duty above self-interest.
In some instances, the
yes I can attitude seems to be a camouflage for oppositional
personalities. It really means: no, you can't make me! True
again. America will not forcefully deport masses of people, deprive
them of humanitarian care, obstruct their freedom of speech and
assembly, imprison them for disagreement, or require an entrance exam
to the voting booth. Thoughtful Americans can and will, however,
participate in politics, study the opinions and plans, and try to make
the best decisions. Mainstream America currently has difficult
barriers to overcome.
I can and will do my
part with every word I write. My little corner of the world can
connect to anyone doing research on the internet. From now on, anyone
who googles yes I can will possibly access my contribution to
the analysis of our political situation. I can, I will, and I just
did. (Written 02/25/08)
Until we meet