The Myth Of America
I am moving this comment and my response to the front page because I think it is an important question that we ask ourselves, is what we believe our country to be nothing more than a myth? I have touched on this topic several times, what it means to be an American? We were raised on propaganda that teaches us of our greatness, philanthropy and ingenuity, but we are not taught about our imperialist tendencies, our exploitation of others around the world and at what cost our “greatness” comes. That we must learn on our own.
Certainly we are not all bad, but are we really the great country we pride ourselves on being, the one we learn about in grammar school? Or is it simply that we must continue to strive to be as great as our founding documents suggest we can be? Even that requires amending our constitution to better reflect societal progress and the evolving nature of humans. And what does it say about us that we are now rolling back programs that have at least attempted to move us forward? Feel free to weigh in, I think it’s an important discussion to have.
Love your blog, but need to ask when you feel the quote below from the end of this post was happening?
"if we ever hope to become the America that we once were long ago"
I can recall how the white settlers killed and subjugated the native Americans, how the Japanese Americans were rounded up in 1942 and put in detention (concentration?) camps, how beginning in 1953 or 1954 in Guatemala, we got rid of governments, even popularly elected ones, if they objected to U.S. companies business practices, not to even mention the enslavement of dark skinned people until 1865 and the further murder and ghettoization of people of color to this very day.
When were we what our history tells us we were? Remembering that it is always the winners who write the history.
We have always been a flawed country, based as it was on stealing land from the natives that lived here and building our wealth through slavery, but there has been forward movement and attempts to right wrongs after the fact. Now it feels as if we have stopped and are moving backwards.
American exceptionalism is a very real phenomenon and has led to all of the things you mentioned as well as more recent imperial exploits in places like El Salvador, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, Panama and now Iraq. Believe me, I have no illusions about this countries "greatness" and how it was achieved.
But at least when this country was illegally funding the Contras (through drug trafficking dollars no less) and actively suppressing the peoples will in Nicaragua, it was done behind our backs because it was too distasteful, even to Congress. What the Reagan administration did was illegal and immoral and was done without the people's consent. Now we, the people, have joined in as accomplices and that doesn't bode well for the health of our country.
There are far too many mistakes we have never officially apologized for, let alone taken any real responsibility for, but in the past, progress has been made in recognizing that some wrongs should not happen again (outlawing slavery, extending rights to people of all races and genders, reparations for Japanese Americans interned during the war). We have made attempts through Affirmative Action to level the playing field here at home and outlawing “redlining” so minorities have an equal shot at home and business ownership. We instituted social security so that the elderly weren’t forced to live their final years in poverty and welfare so that children wouldn’t starve. These things did not solve the problems completely, but they at least were attempts at progress and they are all under attack now. We are forgetting the lessons we have learned.
I guess what I mean by that sentence is that we must go back to moving forward and stop ignoring our history, the very history you put forth and more. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it and all that. We have never been angels, but we have never been hated by the rest of the world to the extent we are now, nor have we neglected our responsibility to our citizens at home to such an extent since the lead up to the Depression (and possibly the 80s when there was a great push to get rid of the social safety net). We have gone from mostly benign during the 90s (at least as far as our foreign policy was concerned, our economic policies under Clinton were anything but benign with WTO and NAFTA) to causing great harm during this administration. Maybe during the next one we can get back to benign and then move towards doing good. The world could sure use it.