TO BE AN AMERICAN
America has taken many hits in the past several years. Some inflicted upon us by terrorists with their warped agenda for making a better world. As we prepare to protect ourselves from new attacks, we need also to be aware of our self-imposed hits against the fabric and psyche of the America. In response to the outside threats, our government tells us to be vigilant and watch for suspicious people and packages so that we can help protect our homeland from foreign terrorists. While I am more attentive to dangers from outside America, I am also attentive to the dangers that we inflict upon ourselves. We need to be vigilant against all attacks both from outside and inside of America.
Here are some examples of our self-imposed attacks: America has an arrogant side to our national psyche. We all too often strut around both here and abroad thinking and acting like we are better than others because we have more money, power, or opportunities.
We are also often jingoists when it comes to international affairs. We demand that the world cooperates with our wishes but seldom do we cooperate with the wishes of the world. Why do we act in this self-centered and self-serving manner? Because we are bigger and "bader" than other nations.
Here and overseas, we act and believe that we are on God's side and sometimes even assume that God's will is the same as our national or international policy. For example, we self-righteously strut around talking the talk about religious freedom, but we don't walk that walk. We attempt to impose our spin on religion on others.
We talk about self-determinism, but we usurp those rights from many nations. The most recent example is Iraq. We have decided that God wants us to bring democracy to the Middle East. Self-determinism and US military power make strange bedfellows.
American corporate greed would make Adam Smith blush. We watch the capitalist leaders of our American economy pad their pockets without much of a whimper. Like so many lemmings, we accept their corporate insatiability and abuse of power which has costs millions of Americans billions of dollars and ruined futures.
While our national birth records state that we are one nation, it is often more true that there are two Americas. Tragically, we are divided on race, sex, wealth, behavior, and privilege. Even in the Olympics, we and the rest of the world see two Americas. The hubris-filled swimmer, Gary Hall, represents one of the Americas. He struts his God-given talent upon the stage of the Athens Olympics showing a side of America that the world detests and even some Americans resent. I watched in disbelief Hall's antics before and after his 50m freestyle win. I wished that someone less arrogant and more deserving would have beaten him. After he won his race, the TV camera turned to the stands and focused in upon his father. His father was jumping with jingoistic joy. If I were his father, I would have been embarrassed. I don't deny that Hall is a great swimmer. The question is what kind of athlete is he-beyond fast? Is there more to the Olympics than being first? What did Hall show the world about America-much of what the world legitimately already hates? Our arrogance and hubris.
Michael Phelps also represented America. Surely, he is a golden boy. However, the gold is more in his soul than around his neck. Phelps gave up his place on the 4x100-medley relay so that Ian Crocker would have a chance at the gold also.
Then there are the examples of Paul Hamm and Carly Patterson. They each won the all-around gymnastics competition and the gold medal. They had made mistakes and missteps during their various routines. However, they were able to pull themselves up out of the pit of despair to the bright light of the gold.
Phelps, Hamm, and Patterson also reflected what America is-the best of what truly makes our nation great. We, as Americans, have seen in the Athens Olympics not only what the true Olympic spirit is, but also, the Olympics has given the rest of us and the world an example of what America has been and can be in the future. While we go for the gold in the world, it is critical that we walk the walk about which we talk.
Thank you Michael, Paul, and Carly. Because of you, I'm proud to be an American.
This article first appear in the Dixon Telegraph on 11/2/04.