I heard yesterday that not many U.S. citizens are ‘proud to be an American’ these days, according to a recent poll. I suppose that’s understandable, but not for the reasons you’d think. Yes, a lot of terrible things have been going on. Yes, there is still racism in the U.S. which is not something any of us should stand for. But I think that, in our fervor to decry the evils of racism, and rightfully so, we have begun to think, many of us, that this country is woefully deficient in seemingly every other area. And I think that’s a mistake. I hope this isn’t received by the reader as a ‘political’ piece. Because I’m not terribly political. I am more of a reasonable, pragmatic type where earthly institutions and such are concerned.
Life is never without challenges; good things happen even during dark periods. Good people exist and they become the light a community or a culture needs. Perhaps we should institute comparative world/US social studies/history courses into our public schools. With that sort of curriculum, students could learn about other countries and how their systems work and stack up against ours, not just now but throughout history. It has been my experience, as one who lived in Europe for 14 years, that U.S. citizens tend to be extremely self-absorbed about many things. And, sadly, that looking inward has made it more of a challenge for many citizens to realize just how different the U.S. is from other countries, throughout its history. Often those differences are positive, by the way. Certainly not always.
I’m disturbed and saddened, even angered by some things America has done, and by some things some of our citizens continue to do. We should not gloss over or ignore those things. But neither should those be all we focus on and discuss.
About my “Uncle Sam”
I could tell you all about a relative of mine who has been a jerk on more than one occasion, but he’s also kind and stands up for those who are for some reason unable to defend themselves.
Sometimes he fails to live up to the credo of his life, which is an honorable and good one, for himself and others. But much of the time, he’s a righteous person.
If I never shared his strong points or the good things he’s done, and if I never mentioned his underlying strength that his core beliefs provided, guiding him toward the good, he would seem a terrible human being. I think we should try, in all charity and fairness, to give a complete portrait of those we love to others, especially to those in our own family whom we also hope will love him.
So it is with our nation. I think it’s best to tell younger generations about the good and the bad in our nation. We’re citizens of a country that is founded on an amazing concept that had never been tried before. Let’s teach that to each generation and offer them those ideals to aspire to. Yes, we have had and will continue to struggle because we are flawed and imperfect mortals. But I do believe that ours is the best system out there. And it will continue to be, if we don’t squander the amazing gifts we were given at our founding. Yes, I know – our founders were flawed also. But they were also products of their age. Another sound reason to study history. (See particularly the preamble to our Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights for starters.)
I have given a talk about tradition in the past. In it I talk about how important it is to pass on what we know and have learned to those who will succeed us. That’s what tradition means! That’s traditio! How will anyone know the good that the U.S. offers if we don’t tell them? How can we expect the next generations to work to sustain and improve their country if we don’t show them how and let them know the Constitution and this republic are worth preserving? How can we help upcoming young people to appreciate and employ the tools we’ve been given to improve the lives of everyone, while respecting each person’s inalienable rights? Do young people understand the concept of “the consent of the governed?” I think we really need to help them realize that peaceful demonstrations are good, but only to get Congress to change laws. Or to draw attention to an injustice.
Voting for candidates in any election from the local to the state to federal level is the way to get the representation you want in office to help change things. Did you know that a group of local citizens can petition a municipal authority of elected officials to remove a statue that they find offensive? Yup. There’s no need to tear it down without permission. That’s actually against the law. I understand the anger, the frustration. I don’t understand why some of those statues were there, either. But a boring administrative action could get it removed. I know that peaceful can often be boring. It is certainly less destructive.
We need to remember, too, that the particular right to freedom of speech allows for a free exchange of ideas, even opposing ideas. It’s a precious right that too many people take for granted. They are only too happy to say whatever they like, but will try to suppress others from sharing their views and beliefs. That is not a very traditional American trait. We have always been about healthy debate. If we could start teaching young people from an early age that it is right and just to respect the rights of others, even when they disagree with us, that would be a beautiful thing! So, parents, schools, and our elected public servants all need to teach, to hand on, what the United States of America is, was, and can become.
Nothing Is Perfect
It won’t always be perfect, and will often fall short of the mark, just like individual people so often do. But we can keep trying, peacefully, respectfully. As a person of faith, I also will add that we should pray for one another. That means everyone, just as Jesus does, just as He showed us when He hung on the cross and asked God to forgive the blood thirsty mob before Him. We can ask the Lord to “break our hearts for what breaks His.” We can stop pointing fingers and start raising hands to Heaven. Heal us, Lord. Deliver us from evil. Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.