The Erosion of the American Brand.
Undoubtedly, the US has seen a lot of changes lately, dramatic shifts in politics, immigration, and the way in which the government chooses to be accountable. Like all brands, nations are defined by their history, their promise and their values.
So, with all this change what has happened to the American brand?
The American brand has always stood for justice, equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No document is more representative of this then the Declaration of Independence. Not only is it one of the world most eloquent and beautifully scribed documents it is also a powerful brand guide declaring a set of values that have been the envy of the world. It identified the value of the individual, their right to self government and made it the responsibility of the state to cherish and support it citizens.
The question today is - are these values representative of the current American brand?
Consider the image and symbolism that the Statue of Liberty holds as a beacon of hope to those seeking a better life and an escape from poverty, oppression and persecution. It is one of the founding principles that built a nation. With the current travel ban and the growing exodus of refugees from the US to Canada, the American brand is looking a lot less tolerant and inclusive from its’ original brand promise.
As a nation, America has weathered difficult times that have tested the mettle of its’ brand declaration. The civil war, the Civil Rights movement, the McCarthy era and more recently race riots of Ferguson Missouri. The Disconnect between the American dream and the reality of American life is sowing the seeds of disappointment and disillusionment. But underneath these painful events there have been the guiding principles of equality and a spirit to grow and become a fairer and more just nation in the process.
But it was the tragic events of 9/11 that severely altered the essence of the American brand pushing the nation into a culture of fear and protectionism. Like all brands, once your product has been tampered with - it is how you respond that threat which ultimately defines your brand. While the need for increased security was a natural response to help protect its citizens, the resulting fear and suspicion has become far more toxic to the American brand. America has adopted a victim mentality and enabled fear to permeated the fabric of the nation. The distrust of anything foreign is poisoning the culture and threatening to erode the brand from within, (not unlike what happened in the McCarthy era).
To exacerbate the situation, the current President has given a voice to fear, leveraging that fear into executive actions that could certainty cause long-term damage to what the American brand stands for.
Traditionally the American brand has been defined by how it reacts to situations and what fundamental values it holds true. The world is a dangerous place and will continue to be so. But to enable fear and suspicion to drive political, economic and society decisions only serves to further erode the foundations of hope and opportunity. To fight these negative forces the American brand must be a sanctuary of freedom to uphold its original promise. That equality needs to be the benchmark for all citizens - new and old. Segregating Americans into different groups only servers to marginalize them and instigate tyranny and oppression. When you change how people live and act, you effectively change the culture and spirit of a nation. Consider that the founding fathers framed their promise of the American brand in terms of a more perfect union. This was more than a unification of colonies but a union of people and of spirit.
The American brand while it has always aspired to represent hope, justice, freedom, equality and prosperity, it also has had a dark side. The American brand has also been seen as the rugged cowboy seeking justice at the end of a gun. This ruthless and self-empowered 19th century version of the American brand is still alive and well in the US today. This version of America is defiant in their right to support the 2nd Amendment, creating a gun lobby and culture that has thwarting any form of gun control over the years. Relevant in another era, the culture of vigilantly justice needs to evolve as the nation evolves. America needs to decide whether the Cowboy is still relevant to the American brand of the future.
For the American brand to stand for freedom and opportunity, it must be open to diversity and equality, and to all those who need refuge. It must be a brand that faces fear with hope and generosity.
To the current administration, you are the keepers of the American brand and ultimately accountable to the American people. That freedom of speech demands both respect and dialogue and that without respect, we are faced with rhetoric and propaganda that has neither value, nor substance, nor truth.
As commander-in-chief of the American brand, consider what you want the American brand to be? What is the real cost to "Make America great again"?
And for whom?
If the price for economic power and national security comes with the loss of individual freedoms, the possibility of a better life, then the price is too high. One used to be able to sum up the American brand as ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ and everyone got it. It was a strong brand, the kind you almost take for granted, so firm and assured was it, in its resolve, so strong in its beliefs. But the current American brand is a brand in turmoil that cannot be reduced to a snappy social media tweet. It must be an open nation that values all people, regardless of their origins and sees value in their contribution.
National security should be a tool to a greater end. To protect all those who reach our shores and enable them to live free without persecution. Not a barrier that denies those who wish to seek equality and opportunity.
The American brand is complex and fragile. Its promise must be rooted in the hopes and dreams of an entire nation and all its citizens. It is incumbent on its leaders to see the possibilities of greatness, to uphold the virtues that have been set by their forefathers and to lead the world by example.