Monday, October 27, 2008

Critiquing America = UnAmerican...What the??

There has been a lot of talk lately about being a true American. Most of this has been in relation to the presidential election and the ongoing argument between the candidates of who is more "American." Let's get to the point: If you have an American passport, you are an American. You can't be more "American" no matter what you do. You can do more for your country and your neighbors than another citizen, but that doesn't make you any more "American." If anything, that just makes you a more giving and sacrificial person.

My second thought about "Americanism" concerns the accusations of people being unAmerican. Since when did critiquing America make you unAmerican? (In the same way, since when did critiquing the war in Iraq or even being against it mean you don't "support the troops?") Again, let's get to the point: America is not the "shining city on a hill" as Palin so horrendously described the country as. (This isn't even taking into account the Biblical/Christian parallel she is attempting to create with America, which is incredibly dangerous for the church.)

America's history, both centuries old and contemporary, is full of many unAmerican instances. (Slaves, stealing of entire nation from native americans, torture, espionage debacles, etc.) We are still a country trying to deal with race, our empirical/imperialistic tendencies, the wealth gap, consumerism, intolerance, and simple ignorance just to name a few. We have done many things well (Marshall Plan, The New Deal, protecting Kuwait in the early 90s, pushing for democracy, etc.). There is no doubt that the American ideal has some good and even great areas. But let's not just pat ourselves on the back, blow our American egos up and not care anymore. Let's take some time to examine ourselves and our actions and aim to improve as a nation because that is what we truly need right now. Obama (the likely winner) nor McCain are going to truly change the country without taking a long look at the country itself and its actions and critiquing the good and the ugly that we are as a nation.


But what does this look like?

I don't know. And I think most of our leaders don't know either but here are some things to start with:

-We need a re-imagining of the "American Dream" away from a dream of economic and material status. America = $. How sad is that? America should be a place where you have a greater sense of freedom and equality, where your neighbors will pick you up when you fall, where you can truly build something that you can call your own and learn to live sacrificially, just and tolerant. It shouldn't be about buying that house and new car and living comfortably (not that those things are evil or something).

-We need to look at our imperialistic tendencies with how we deal with the rest of the world. We have our hands in too many cookie jars. This includes reflecting on the answer to this question: Why were we attacked on 9/11? Our influence has not always been for the better.

-We need to look at the consumerism that has saturated the mindset of our society and the "Me Me Me" mentality.

-Race. This is still a painful area for the country because there are still many, many deep scars and embarrassing stereotypes, and the big issue of immigration is upon us as well. I don't know how we address this issue but it needs addressing.

-America is not the moral leader of the world. In fact, far from it. We need to take the plank out of our own eyes before we can do the same for others. Setting a standard against torture would be a start.

-Education needs to be revamped, made more challenging and we need to work on a solution to solve the issues within failing schools and districts. This will make America more appealing to the rest of the world and also make it competitive for the next wave of new technology.

-If America wants to consider itself a leader in the world, it needs to lead in environmental standards and renewable, clean energy production. This will require a great deal of sacrifice but has the possibility of creating a huge number of jobs and making the economy boom like never before.

That's all I've got for now.

Go ahead. Be "unAmerican" and critique away.

Jack

Reading List: The Meaning of Jesus - Two Visions by Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright (Currently reading this), Democracy Matters by Cornel West, and Introduction to Marx

Listening to: Dear Science - TV on the Radio, For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver, Only by the Night - Kings of Leon, Funeral and Neon Bible - Arcade Fire, Cease to Begin - Band of Horses and Appeal to Reason - Rise Against

Watching: Dexter, Entourage, The Office, Grey's Anatomy, The Big Bang Theory, Chuck - all current seasons. And I'm catching up on 30 Rock and going to start Battlestar Galactica soon.

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