Pride in America, ignorance of the issues, media hype, political spin-doctors, dishonesty in government, and an aggressive foreign policy fueled by the events of September 11, 2001 have all steered the American patriot down the road of anger, pride, and egotism. Post September 11, most Americans were outraged and dismayed. From this outrage and dismay came anger, which quickly turned to hate for most Americans. Thankfully the America today is not what it was sixty years ago. There were no internment camps, where innocent Americans of Arab and southwestern Asian decent were locked away. But the hate is still there. It is exactly this hate, pride, and arrogance, which is perverting the heart of the American patriot today and leading to hard line nationalism.
Eric Hoffer once said, “The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation.” Americans not only want to love America, a lot of them need to love America. This is because the day-to-day life of most Americans is overflowing with sadness and pain. Crime, poverty, and broken families are all a large part of the American landscape. It is almost as if when Americans acknowledge the flaws of their country they must also acknowledge their own flaws, so they ignore both. Most Americans do not want to deal with the hardships of life and so focus all of their attention on the positive. They talk of the evils of foreign countries, and how great it is to be an American and live in the “best country” in the world. If forced to acknowledge some shortcoming in their country, they simply contrast the problem with the same problem of another country, “If you think poverty in America is bad, imagine if you lived in Afghanistan, then you’d really be in trouble.” It is this blindness, this pride, that most Americans use to make their lives seem less flawed, and so they hate the world and love America.
“Reason and Ignorance, the opposites of each other, influence the great bulk of mankind. If either of these can be rendered sufficiently extensive in a country, the machinery of Government goes easily on. Reason obeys itself; and Ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.” Thomas Paine summed up the current state of America perfectly in his quote. The majority of Americans today are wholly content to know nothing of the world around them. The little they do know is obtained from a two paragraph article they read in their hometown newspaper, or an interview they saw on CNN. When the President of the United States comes on television and tells them that country X is evil and must be destroyed, they believe his words without a second thought. He is the President of the United States after all, if he said it, it must be true. Most Americans would rather be told what to think than arrive at conclusions themselves. It is this exact thinking that has led Americans to become so blind to the merits of other countries and the flaws their own.
The foreign policy of America can be summed up in five words, “My way or the highway”. It is this philosophy that reinforces the belief that the United States is above the law; international law. Our policies are geared towards national interests rather than global interests. A congressman sitting on the House Armed Services Committee told Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld in a recent hearing, that he would only support an invasion Iraq if it was, “in the best interests of the United States”. Thinking like that is what kept America out of World War II for so long. It means that the problems of other countries are not the problems of America. The United States should feel compelled to act on global events even when it doesn’t necessarily serve its own interests. The twin towers had to be destroyed before the United States took an aggressive military role in anti-terrorism across the world, even though terrorist acts were being perpetrated on an almost daily basis around the world prior to 9/11. America’s foreign policy needs to be one of global interests, not national interests.
The United States is not consistent with its beliefs. President Bush paints Saddam Hussein as an evil dictator bent on destroying western civilization. He contrasts the US with Iraq as good versus evil. He is currently trying to strong-arm the international community into creating a military coalition by saying that, if they do not participate, he will act without their help against Iraq. Yet 60 miles off the coast of Florida sits a man who once tried to station Russian Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM’s) in his country. Does the president call for an international coalition to remove Fidel Castro from power? Of course not, Fidel Castro poses no threat to America. Saddam Hussein may very well be the largest threat to the world since Hitler, in fact I would go so far as to say, there is no doubt but he must be removed from power else the United States and western nations suffer the consequences, but President Bush shows no proof of President Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction programs. This sends a mixed message to Americans. First, it says that the US is free to conduct offensive operations against other countries based solely on moral grounds. Secondly it dismisses the idea that other countries should require any proof of wrong doing by a “rogue nation” and simply follow the US’s lead because we are always right.
“Just the facts Ma’Am.” anyone who has seen the 1950’s television show, Dragnet, is familiar with this saying. Just the facts are exactly what our elected officials are duty-bound to provide their constituents. More often than not though, politicians will side step a question and provide a long drawn out answer which may have nothing or very little to do with the issues at hand. They don’t lie; they just don’t answer the question. It is little wonder than that most Americans are frustrated with politicians, they can never get a straight answer from them. Also, politicians are want to give answers that are not necessarily in the best interests of Americans, but an answer that is best suited to get him or her re-elected. It is this kind of political spin-doctoring that makes Americans trust the legislative branch less, and their own biased opinions more.
Americans need to become more proactive in gathering information related to world affairs. Rather than taking what Dan Rather has to say at face value, people should try to broaden their sources. Taking in a variety of view points allows a person to make a more informed decision. The responsibility to provide an unbiased view of national and international events to young people should lay with parents, teachers, and professors. As authority figures they should not dictate to young people what is fact or opinion, rather they should present all available information and allow the child or student to decide for him or herself.
To combat this rampant egotism and hate that is so prevalent in America today; Americans must actively seek truth, even when it leaves a bitter taste in their mouth. Politicians must focus more on America and its citizens and less on getting re-elected. Less political spin and more facts from politicians would go a long way to reinstate a lost trust in the legislative and executive branches of government. The government also needs to take a step back from itself and see how the actions of America affect the global community. As the lone “Superpower”, we have a responsibility to set the standard for all other countries to follow. I love America, but the pride I take in being an American should be one of dignity and self-respect, not arrogance or haughtiness.