Fair can never be an American value because fairness is in the eye of the beholder. Any situation can be construed to be fair or unfair depending on the viewpoint presented. That is why it is such an effective strawman argument on social media and in political discourse.
Whether it is concerning the appointment of a supreme court justice, treatment by the media or playing time on a youth sports team, fair can always be unfair to someone.
Transgressions from the past such as slavery, the genocide of native tribes and internment of Japanese Americans cannot be atoned for in a manner that creates fairness for the ancestors of the Americans who suffered those atrocities. Every attempt to do so will have a consequence on someone who did not commit those atrocities that will no doubt be unfair.
The word fair does not appear in the United States Constitution. Likely because our forefathers were wise enough to understand that there is no such thing as fair. What our forefathers did embrace was equality.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,” are the words from the Declaration of Independence that form the very foundation of the American experiment. The focus is on equal, not fair and if we are going to move beyond our current divisions, we must move beyond seeking to make America fair and return our focus to all men (and women) being equal.
Rather than constant refinement and argument about what is fair, our path forward needs to be ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Because of family, location or social status some Americans will always have an advantage in certain endeavors. That doesn’t make it unfair for them to pursue and excel in those endeavors.
Imagine telling 7’2” NBA player Bol Bol that he cannot play basketball because it is unfair that his father is 7’7” former NBA player Manute Bol. What matters is not the advantage that he has, but that every other player has an equal opportunity to excel in the same endeavor. His genetics give him a head start, but anyone who works hard will have the opportunity to reach the same goals. In sports as in life, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
From Walmart’s perspective it was certainly not fair that the start-up internet company Amazon was able to hire top executives away from them and grow the logistics and infrastructure that propelled them to dominate the online sales arena and take a massive bite out of Walmart’s profits. What’s important is the retail giant had an equal opportunity to retain those employees and pursue online sales and instead chose to focus on brick and mortar locations.
In Montana it is hard to go a day without hearing about how unfair it is that people from other states are moving here in droves and driving up the real estate prices. Montanans have had an equal opportunity to build wealth and purchase those same places being scooped up by out of staters.
Our country is deluding itself with the concept of fairness. The result is endless disagreement and stagnation. Americans need to wake up to the fact that no matter how things are, to someone they will always be unfair.
It’s time that Americans choose to use the equality they are guaranteed by the Constitution to capitalize on their strengths and advantages to pursue higher goals. Everyone needs to work to make themselves better without the excuse of the World being unfair. If you never consider the excuse of unfair, you will be far more likely to succeed.