Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Nationalism, is an infantile disease."

-Albert Einstein

I have meant to write about this for some time. I know that I have other, pressing things to write about, but I believe that this is important too. I would like to start out by clarifying that, while I agree very strongly with the above quote, I am a patriot. I am not proud to be an American, not because I don't think that being an American is a good thing, but simply because I never had to make any sacrifices to be one. I was born an American, because my German grandmother made love with an American G.I. and brought my mother here when she was a young child. I never had to work at becoming an American, it was an accident of birth.

I do not love my country either. I have a profound and deep seated passion for the ideals upon which this nation was founded. I have a passion for the nation that I learned about in school. But I do not love even that. My country is not a person, nor is it a religious faith, it is nothing more, or less, than an attempt at freedom that at the time of it's founding, the world had never seen. Neither is my country, the country I learned about in school. It never really was. So why the melancholy and mirth?

A few weeks ago, I learned that another nation of recent greatness, Russia, has developed a great big bomb. A devastating and dangerous bomb. I also learned that Russia is starting to build up her military again. For the last few years Russia has been moving headlong into fascism. I suspect that this really began with the fall of communism and the end of the Soviet Union. Chaos ensued and while many Russians suffered under communist totalitarianism, toto is in many ways preferable to chaos, especially in the minds of Russians. The problem is that as Russia has begun to slowly stabilize, nationalism has reared it's ugly head. A super-power made largely irrelevant in the world arena, is rattling sabers, hoping to be somebody again.

So why the melancholy and mirth?

I would like you to pause for a moment, if your an American, and think long and hard about the questions I am about to ask.

Who are we, to the larger world community today? What makes us relevant in the global community? What does our super-power status really mean? Can we really be legitimately called a super-power? (if so why?)

Underlying it all; Why are we really in Iraq? Are we pulling the same sort of games that Russia is, just far louder and prouder? Even worse, does this not just speed up our drive into decadence and decline?

We embark on "noble" efforts of spreading democracy and "freedom" to other nations, while we have rampant poverty and killing in our own streets. While our leaders lie and attempt to destroy the bulwarks of liberty and freedom that have made this a nation worth having a passion about. While the power lies not with the people, not with the voters, but with those who can afford to influence power. While we the people practically beg our leaders to protect us, by taking away our privacy, by taking away our sovereign rights - by taking away everything that makes us Americans.

Decadence becomes us, a bitter, hollow existence. Spread the mediocrity and hope that the world only notices that we are making others like us, no matter how little like us we become in the process. Spread the mediocrity and lie to ourselves, pretending we are who we know we are, no matter how far down the path of decadence we go, no matter how much we give away, for an illusion of safety.

That silly big bomb the Russians made? So last year, when we tested our own. Sure the Russian bomb's bigger, but hey, we can build one that's bigger still, right? After all, we're Americans. And everybody knows that we have to have the biggest bombs. Everybody knows that we just won't be safe, without the power to blast the face of this planet into oblivion. The power to do it seconds before they can blast it into oblivion first. Because everybody knows that the country that annihilates the planet first, wins. Everybody knows that being a super-power means having the best ability to destroy us all. So you tell me;

Why the melancholy and mirth?

Throw me down into your lies, throw me down into your truth,
I just realized that I'm not God, the same could happen to you.


kehrsam said...

With all due respect, power is not that which conquers in the political sense as in the cultural. And Hollywood has conquered, in a way that the Athens of Augustus would envy. Our victory is not bombs and guns, but hearts and minds. And there are few ten-year-olds on the planet who can resist the pull of American ideals and Tommy Hilfiger rags.

I love my country, too. The unrivaled prosperity, unprecedented freedom of action, and bare-knuckled politics are innovations on the world stage. But let's be clear: It never was about us common folk: There is a reason the national litany is, "A rising tide lifts all boats." Most of us have nothing but a skiff in the dirty harbor. Well and good. I am more than happy with my lot in life. But there is no American Dream.

Beth said...

Maybe I look at life too simplistically, sure you did not do anything in particular to become an American, but I do think you "earn" the right to be proud of the place of your birth whenever you just live up to the ideals of being an American and doing what you think is the proper thing to do to make this country great.

steven said...

There is a lot to criticize about our government, and the founders, I think, intended for us to be always skeptical about anything the government was doing. Having said that, I feel extremely fortunate to have been born in America, seeing what the rest of the world has to offer.

Beth said...

I would also like to address your comments DuWayne about keeping up our military strength. I wonder what you think we should do in the face of evil? Should we not be able to fight against it? Part of my personal pride in being an American is knowing that we use our might to help people all over the world, while having all the freedoms we enjoy in the USA.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Kurt -

Well and good, but what are we actually spreading to the hearts and minds? Are we spreading the ideals or are we spreading something else?

In many nations, we spread a certain amount of the positive, but what about countries like Iraq? What are we spreading there?

Or take Sudan. What have we spread there? What has the IMF and the World Bank spread all over the globe, other than worsening the crushing poverty of the nations they "help?"

Beth -

Having military might is fine, important even. But how much do we really need? Do we actually want to annihilate the planet? We are so far beyond diminishing returns it would be laughable if it wasn't so very frightening.

I grew up at the tail end of the coldwar. I grew up knowing that if nuclear war happened, I wasn't far enough from certain targets, to have a remote chance of surviving, yet far enough not to be killed quickly. The last thing I want to see, is for a new form of coldwar to begin.

The thing that pisses me off the most, is that there really isn't a need for this, other than to "prove" we're still relevant. The same holds true of Russian motivations. We are stuck on a nationalistic struggle to stay at the top. The top being having the biggest capacity for destruction.

Who cares any more? Yes, I am damn glad to be an American. Yes, I am passionate about the ideals that this country was founded on. I will continue to be, even if we stop trying to rule the planet.

I would love to see other nations pick up on our ideals. I would love it even more if we were living up to them. I would really love it if we stopped trying to manipulate and destroy the already frail/failed economies of other nations, with crushing debts to the World Bank and IMF. I would love to see us actually trying to foster policies that made the military might unnecessary.

steven said...

Beth, as far as fighting evil and helping people all over the world, I think that we need to realize that there are limits to what our government can or should do, and accept those limits. By becoming as involved as we have in some places, such as Iraq, we have far exceeded these limits and made life much more dangerous for ourselves. We have also made it much more difficult to spread a message of peace and freedom. In most cases, the best we can do is lead by example, attempt diplomacy, and accept those who wish to flee oppressive governments into our society, so long as they agree to follow our laws.