I have long been fed up with the Unite States of America. I don’t understand how such corruption, manipulation and pure incompetence can run “the greatest country on earth”. So when I hear people expressing this idea of american exceptionalism (the concept that America and Americans are inherently great, smart, moral etc.. ) is not only ridiculous, arrogant and stupid, but it’s dangerous and aggravating to the rest of the world.
We broadcast our confidence as the “Land of the free and the home of the brave” and insist our role as a world power is to referee the rest of the world and step in when we see fit. Many of the problems we insist on meddling with overseas have not even been close to solved domestically. We are 36th in education, among the eleven worst countries for overall health care, but don’t worry we are number one in military spending, starting stupid wars, and serving our own self interests while pretending to help others.
A Huffington post article does a terrific but chillingly accurate synopsis of this idea. The author, Jack Healey shows just how devastating America’s self centered actions have been.“Hidden behind this idea (american exceptionalism) has been the establishment of so-called “banana republics” of Latin America to serve elite wealthy business interests, blind eyes given to despots from Cuba and throughout the Caribbean, undeclared and secret bombings in Southeast Asia, the green light given to massacres, false premises to wars for commodity control, and the ongoing disrespect piled on to the concerns of native peoples, minorities, and human rights principles.” Things like these are exactly what many Americans simply do not know. I would call it, at least in some says, revisionist history. The general population are just not taught about what we did in places like the Philippines, and it’s hard to blame them, yet they still add to the strength of an ignorant population. It takes books like A People’s History of American Empire by Howard Zinn to break the mold and tell American history how it is. Honesty and reflection is what is needed to control the excess of self pride we have in this country.
Now this isn’t to say I don’t love my country. I actually a good portion of my life wanting to join the military, to “defend freedom” or whatever, but I eventually realized that I would not always be doing things that I agreed with, all while validating the choices of my government, no matter what. This idea of blindingly following my country no matter what the motive, seems to be validating this sense of righteousness that I simply do not believe in.
Looking at the seemingly broken system of government we have, it is easy to want to simply separate oneself from the problem, move to Canada or Europe and pretend not to be American (a strategy I have seriously considered) but falling into that mindset is part of the reason we are here.
In so many of the issue we have discussed in our class, from gentrification to gun control, the core of the solutions come from citizen engagement and action from the people. But the key is there must be total engagement, not just those who feel passionate about the topic in question. If only a few groups and people on fringes on each side of the debate speak up, the silence of the majority will ultimately lead to our country’s government not accurately representing the true mindset of the population.
I went into the Government, Politics and Citizenship class having a pretty solid base understanding of our government, but what this class did was demonstrate the incredible importance of action. As a citizen of the United States of America I have a duty to partake in the system. I don’t have to agree with the government’s decisions, like our wars or think America is the greatest country on earth, actually voice an opposing opinion is crucial to a balanced and well functioning government. I believe that the idea of “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people” (Gettysburg Address) is not only the right way for a government to function, but also very possible, however I think the United States has strayed from that path.
These statements are obviously not something all Americans would agree with, but I think there is a general consensus that something is wrong with the path our country has taken. So to conclude this discussion, I would challenge everyone, myself included, to not shrink away from complicated, challenging and scary issues, but instead seek them out. Be part of the solution instead of someone who allows themselves to be part of problem.
An Interesting Article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/americanexceptionalism.htm