Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Clarification

So I've gotten several questions about one previous blog post and have written a couple of replies. If there are any others that are confused by my comments, hopefully this will clarify things.

Here is my previous post from November 5th:

How freaking inspiring is this? The whole world is rejoicing!! For the first time in my life, I'm actually proud to be an American!

Here's my explanation:

All I’m saying is that personally, for the first time, I’m proud. I’m seeing the diversity of the U.S. coming together as one, being united, even with our different views and opinions. I’m seeing people that may disagree with one another on several things come together and have a mutual understanding that both opinions matter – not that the other person is completely wrong. I’m seeing true citizenship – being a part of our community, our society – and within that, being individuals, not the other way around. It seems like for too long we’ve been a collection of individuals living amongst each other, separate and not overall concerned with our neighbor’s well-being. I don’t remember the country coming together as a whole this much in my lifetime (as short as that has been). Shouldn't our country be similar to the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)? Shouldn't we be living similar to the first church (Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32-37)? Didn't we learn anything from the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37)? To me, it seems like we’re being reborn as a country. The worldwide opinion of the U.S. has already been elevated. We’re getting the respect that we’ve been trying to demand by force.

As a kid, sure, I sang “I’m proud to be an American,” but I had no idea what that meant. I did it ‘cause I was told to do it. As I started thinking for myself and learning about the history of the United States and what our forefathers did, personally I wasn’t too proud. Don’t get me wrong, the founding fathers of this country did a lot of great things, but how they got there and how they trampled on groups of people didn’t make me proud (i.e. Native Americans, Africans, etc…). It seemed that this country was created on the belief that we’re better than everyone else – that we’re superior. I just can’t accept that. I know it’s written that “all men are created equal,” but if you look at the culture of the U.S., it’s just not there. It seems we read that as “all [American] men are created equal” – and sometimes not even that. If we truly believe that all men are created equal, then my life is worth just as much as a member of Al Qaeda, even if they have an extremely skewed view on the world. Someone being held at GITMO has as just as much worth as I do. That’s kinda a tough nut to swallow and something I had to overcome if I wanted to believe that we were all created equal. Also, when dealing with other countries and cultures, we don’t see them from their point of view, but only from ours. If somebody doesn’t have the same beliefs as we do, we just write them off. It seems like there’s not much mutual understanding or finding common ground. We’re the almighty America and we always have the last say. Now, I know this isn’t always true, but it’s one thing I noticed that really got under my skin as a kid and it’s stuck with me. I’m starting to see that change and it's starting to make me proud.

And I’m not trying to sell anyone short or say I’m not proud of what our armed forces have done in the past. Back during WWII it was different. We, as a country – united – went to war. There were sacrifices that were made. Everyone pitched in. Today it seems like greed has taken hold. We’re completely disconnected from anything going on in Iraq or Afghanistan. We’re still living normal lives here and just picking up news stories every so often about what is happening “over there.” We’re more concerned with how I can get ahead instead of how we, as a country – as the world, can get ahead. We’re missing that unity that seems like it was so prevalent back then. To me, it seems like we’ve taken a big step in re-becoming what has been fought for – a unified country, by the people and for the people, that the world can look up to and have respect for – and that’s something to be proud of. “...one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I've also received an email saying that the U.S. is a nation of "thankless people" that need to look at the positives and not dwell on the negatives. Here is my response to that:

I don’t want to downplay what we do have and the great things that are going on here. Don't get me wrong, I’m glad I live here. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t be critical of some parts of it or want improvement. If no one ever called out the injustices or was ever unhappy with the country and wanted change, we’d still have slavery and women wouldn’t have a vote. I’m thankful every day for what I’ve been blessed with. But that’s a totally different thing than being proud of one’s country. I love our country (read - the people of this country) but I want to stay as far away from idolizing our country as possible - (Exodus 20:4-6, Matthew 22:37-40). Theodore Roosevelt said, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” I’d extend that to the country as a whole. When things are unjust, they should be called out. When things go well, they should be celebrated. Right now I think we have something to celebrate and most of the world is celebrating with us.

Here are two great quotes that I found that sum it up well:

"The peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: ‘Our country -- when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.’” – Carl Schurz, 13th US Secretary of the Interior

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” – James Baldwin

After reading through this (and spending more than several hours collecting my thoughts), I think I realize where the disconnect is. I've always been proud of the concept or idea of this country (something I think most of us would agree with), but I haven't been proud of the country itself and what we've actually done (or failed to do). I'm finally seeing, now, our actions meeting up with our words. Our faith matching up with our deeds, if you will. Let's all hope that President-Elect Obama will live up to his expectations and be able to follow through with what he says he will do. I will be among the first to criticize him for something I think he is doing wrong and among the first to celebrate any of his great accomplishments. Hopefully this sheds a little bit of light on why I do feel proud to be an American for the first time in my life.

As long as faith, hope, and love remain, and faith is accompanied by action, all will be well. One of my favorite songs on the radio now is Hope Now by Addison Road, which says:

Everything rides on hope now.
Everything rides on faith somehow.
When the world has broken me down,
Your love sets me free.

paz,
-jason ... (c:

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