One of the problems with America's image in the world has to do with our hypocrisy. What we often say isn't what we always do. We speak about freedom, but our words don't always get translated into actions whether at home or abroad. For example, we support dictators that support us, and we denounce dictators that are against us. Then we wonder why so many around the world don't hold us in as high esteem as we do ourselves. We don't understand why so many nations and individuals question our motives and are reluctant to follow our lead.
Our hypocrisy is not limited to overseas. Our actions don't always track with what our oratory claims. Case in point: the flap over the flags of some Southern states that include the stars and bars of the old Confederate flag. The argument from the supporters of the inclusion of that symbol of the old South is that the flag is a part of their heritage. They ignore the fact that these state flags didn't include the Confederate flag until the Civil Rights movement in the 60s. Heritage or not, that flag is a symbol of slavery and opposition and has no place in modern America.
It is apparent that many disagree and wish to include the Confederate flag in present day state flags. However, these supporters, that wrap themselves in that flag and hypocritically deny racist views, would be the first to object to a present-day German state including the Nazi swastika. They would see that the swastika stood for all that is base and viral of the Nazi era. They would be the first to ridicule a German's contention that the swastika was merely a symbol of German heritage and history.
The racism in America is the central cancer of our country and has been since before we became a nation. Racism continues to threaten the health of our nation and those that are Americans-both black and white. It is obvious that racism and the resultant discrimination directly impact the lives of black Americans. Even a cursory look at the frequency of most medical illnesses and the resultant mortality rates of blacks, clearly demonstrates that the lives of African Americans suffer physically from racism. In addition to the medical facts, there is a less obvious but equally profound impact upon black Americans' emotional lives.
Whites Americans that are racist delude themselves that they aren't victimizing themselves with their attitudes against blacks. One can't live with hatred for another race seizing inside without it affecting the person physically and emotionally. One can't feel contempt for another race without that venom poisoning that person and those around the individual. Each one of us suffers due to racism regardless of where we stand on that issue.
Because we are the richest and only super power in the world today, what we say and do is the subject of the intense scrutiny by the rest of the world. We can't afford to be seen as hypocrites on vital issues-especially racism. When we try to rally support for causes that are important to us in the international arena, we often lose because many people and nations perceive us as hypocrites, and they are correct many times.
As Americans, we are unique. We have a rich and wondrous tradition. Our nation is grounded in principles that have much to say to our world. If our principles of freedom and equality were applied to all peoples throughout the world, billions would surely enjoy a far better life than most of them are presently experiencing both here and abroad. However, we need to get our house in order, because the rest of the world will dismiss us as merely mouthing platitudes about freedom, liberty, and equality. We can't preach to them until we practice here what Jefferson wrote as the basis of this country. Our national security demands that we end our pretenses about freedom by being true to what we believe. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, "Hypocrites, tear down that flag."
This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 10/28/03.