February 03, 2012

An underappreciated idea

By Deacon Patrick Moynihan *
Amazingly, a quick Google search of “One America” only produces hits for an insurance company, a large office building in Indianapolis and a civic organization with a commendable, albeit myopic message on our national diversity. Regrettably, there is nothing in the top search results about the countries of our hemisphere becoming one or even moving in that direction.

While this is not conclusive proof that the idea of One America is underappreciated, it does suggest that the idea is not a national topic or a current foreign policy priority. Clearly, no one in the government’s top leadership is seriously thinking about a closer collaboration of the three dozen or so countries in the Western Hemisphere (WH). In fact, the most active voices in the political debate over immigration are focused on how to keep us apart.

This is a shame given what we all have to gain.

There are roughly one billion people living in WH— nearly twice the population of the European Union and close to that of the two most populace countries of the world, China and India. When we are discussing Medicaid and social services, people always seem like liabilities. The reality is the opposite; people are a nation’s most precious resource. More people means more workers, inventors, entrepreneurs and consumers. In the end, small countries are dwarfed by large ones.

The combined countries of the WH also have an enviable Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In fact, the collective nominal GDP of our hemisphere is notably larger than the EU’s and more than twice that of China, Russia and India added together. If the market place is the modern battlefield, it is clear that we would be more capable of defending our way of life as a block of countries than as single nations. The WH is also rich in natural resources, with significant amounts of oil, natural gas and metals. Our hemisphere produces over half the world’s corn and three-quarters of the world’s soybeans. We are a net exporter of food and could be far more energy sufficient if that was made an actual priority. In the long run, strong nations are suppliers not buyers.

In short, the WH provides a strong economic opportunity. All the ingredients for growth – people, capital, natural resources, productivity, technology and the drive to make it work – are right here under our nose. We don’t need to borrow or buy from half-way around the world. We can sell, shop, produce and bank at home in the WH.

There is already a strong commonality in our hemisphere. We share common origins and have intermingled our cultures through migration and travel. We enjoy a high level of religious adherence with relatively little turmoil among followers of different faiths. We have a common appreciation for democracy, education, gender equality, and scientific progress. There is really little to keep us apart and much more to bring us together.

Since the New World first became a destination, it has been regarded as a single location by those with authentic vision and appreciation for the possibility the hemisphere presented and continues to present. Men of action like Simon Bolivar and great thinkers like Thomas Jefferson understood this reality and worked for its realization. As I have written before, John Paul II also commented profoundly on the unity of our region. There is truly an undeniable ideal behind the development of our hemisphere—it can be seen in the WH’s strong, productive, democratic nations.

It is not an easy task. Our hemisphere has seen slavery, the decimation of whole peoples, political polarization and environmental degradation. Overtime, this has made the discussion of our oneness politically and socially problematic. But, this is not a terminal obstacle. We have overcome slavery and are rising above racial prejudice. We can work toward a common existence without denigrating or devaluing the unique and diverse cultures of our hemisphere.

It is time to replace the BRIC with a more local block and become stronger partners with our neighbors. We can benefit as a nation and as a region by building on our commonality. Stronger borders will not save us; stronger ties will.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton, it is time to look north and south for a brighter future.

Deacon Patrick Moynihan graduated Culver Military Academy in 1983, from Brown University with BA in Sanskrit and Classics in 1987, and from Providence College with an MA in Religious Studies [Theology] in 1999.

He taught Latin and English in a Catholic High School from 1987 to 1990, traded commodities, futures and options for an international trading company from 1990 to 1995 and directed a free Catholic mission school in Haiti for academically gifted children from the poorest areas around Port au Prince from 1996 to 2006.

Deacon Moynihan was ordained in October of 2001 as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Rockford [IL] where he was the director of formation and later the Office for the Permanent Diaconate from 2001 to 2006. He has since gone back to Haiti and is currently the president of The Haitian Project.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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