Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thoughts on the State of the Union.

The images glaring from the television, the words of the newspaper headlines, the general buzz on the street, all suggest that the way of life across the Atlantic, life as I had always known there, is crumbling, disintegrating, changing in a way that few had ever anticipated. As I watch interest rates sky-rocket, politicians bicker, jobs disappear and the national deficit continue to expand at the same rate as the waistlines of my gluttonous, sedentary, blindly consumerist compatriots, there is a thought that comes to mind:

All the better.

Now I know that this may be interpreted by many as a distinctly un-American sentiment, that most would find it inconceivable that I should bear my fellow citizens such ill will that I would welcome the prospect of America's dethronement, of her ousting from the position of world superpower. But to these interpretations, I turn an ear of disaccord and reply simply that to truly love a nation and her people, to sincerely wish the best for her future is perhaps not to condone her continued accumulation of wealth and power through iniquitous means, nor her demonstrations of military strength through the provocation of unjust, ambiguous wars, nor her sustainment of an insatiable dominant streak, manifesting itself in the form of global cultural contamination. No, true patriotism cannot be measured in numbers. It is not necessarily the desire to see ones country be the richest, but much more to see her maintain her integrity.

Bobby Kennedy said it best, over half a century ago, when noting that:

"The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

The road on which the United States has found herself for the past fifty years is not that on upon which I want to hold my childrens' hands and lead them down in the future. When they eat with their hands, I do not want it to be because an unseen corporate villain has determined this to be the most convenient way for them to consume their fat and salt-laden, nutrient deficient cheeseburger, but so that they can touch and feel that which nourishes them, so that they can grasp the concept of where their food comes from. When they run and play, as children do, I do not want them to feel that they always have to win, have to stamp out their competition, have to be the very best because that is the American way. I want to hear their laughter fill the air around them, see the smiles that light up their faces, watch them submit, completely, to the act of play without winners or losers. I do not want them to watch their friends' fathers, brothers, and uncles come home from senseless, soulless, oil-hungry wars in body bags and regard them as heroes, but know to that true heroism is demonstrated in simple, everyday acts, that the tenacity, patience, love and steadfastness required to help them mature are the characteristics of a true role model. I do not want to drive them to school in our SUV, nor reward their achievements with materialistic possessions, nor teach them that they are better or more worthy than anyone else because of the color of their skin, their passport, or their father's collar. I do not want them to be ignorant of the world around them, to turn a blind eye to injustice or suffering, to pledge their allegiance to a flag, a god or a political party. I do not want them to identify their country's cultural contributions in terms like Nike, Starbucks, Apple or Hollywood.

I do not want them to fear their government, but for their government to fear them. I want to hear their voices rise, in unison with that of their brothers and sisters, in song that transcends territorial, political, racial and socio-economic lines. I want them to know that once upon a time their country was the richest, the most powerful, the hand that pushed down all the rest, and that this position served only to rob their countrymen of insight, of prospect, of righteousness. Out of many, one? Oh yes. But not the one that terrorized, tyrannized and persecuted. Not the one that bullied, scratched and fought her way to the top, but whose inevitable fall from grace marked the beginning of a new era and ushered in a better life for one and for all.

I want them to walk down a new road, one they themselves will fashion and pave.

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave.
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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