Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ignorance & Arrogance: The American Legend

With all of the things in the news from oil spills to bombs in Times Square, I really thought that I was done writing about those tea party folks. However, it's like when you're a kid and can't help but pick at that scab on your knee. A friend posted this March video from a tea party protest of the health care reform bill, which prompted another friend to comment, "I'm so over America." This in turn prompted me to think about my own feelings about this country.

I've never been one for love of country. I know that this upsets a lot of people, heaven knows Michelle Obama got all kinds of flack for suggesting that she hadn't always been proud of this country. I just find it somewhat absurd to love things. I love my friends and my family, but I don't love my car or my table lamps. Besides, love of country leads to patriotism which segues into nationalism, which I think of as akin to patriotism on PCP.

I don't think that we are the worst country in the world but neither do I think that we are as great as we have deluded ourselves into believing. This is a country founded in blood, built on taking over the land and forcing the native population off of their land. We made laws to justify this usurpation of property (the Discovery Doctrine), declaring that the Indians had never owned the land but merely occupied it until it was discovered by Europeans. It was the Europeans,who cultivated the land and fenced it in, that created ownership. The Supreme Court case, Johnson v. M'Intosh, 21 U.S. 543, L. Ed 681, 8 Wheat. 543 (1823), espousing this view is standard reading in every first year property law class. Then there's the whole slavery thing, building a country on the backs of a kidnapped and enslaved people. Emancipation of those slaves was followed by 100 years of Jim Crow--legalized, government sanctioned discrimination based on skin color that denied basic rights of citizenship to Americans having or perceived as having "one drop of black blood."  There's the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, robbing people of their property and their dignity. Reparations finally were paid for the property but how do you provide reparations for stripping people of their dignity? Another question to ponder is why there was no such internment for German Americans, also our enemy in WWII? Then there is the new Arizona state law, that legalizes racial profiling. Arizona is a single state but at least seven other states have already announced that they are considering following Arizona's lead.

The tea partiers are the culmination of generations of Americans reinforcing a belief in the superiority of America simply by virtue of its existence. There is really nothing surprising about the birth and growth of the tea party; it is the expected progeny of a country that feeds ignorance to its youth and revises history to fit our notions of who we think we are with no regard for the truth of the past.

I think that the biggest problem with the tea partiers is that they reflect the pervasive ignorance and arrogance that characterizes this country. As a whole, we can be a pretty narrow minded and provincial lot. We have no sense of history, we view ourselves as morally superior to all other nations. Because we choose not to remember the past, we don't understand our present. In our minds we have always been great, always on the side of right, always behaved in a noble fashion. Every other nation pales in comparison. America is a legend in its own mind.  Like most legends, there is some truth in ours but our delusions of grandeur are mostly the result of smoke and mirrors. Nonetheless, we cling to the legend and meet any attempt to disavow us of that legend with anger and self-righteous indignation.


Sybil said...

Sheria, As Always a great write up. You write so well ad I have to agree with you from what little I know about the USA history etc.
I see on the news a wee while ago that they have arrested someone for the car bomb in NY first report said he was an American Citizen...next time I heard the report they say he is native born Pakistan !! could the shade... if he has any ...of his skin suddenly changed him from a full grown American citizen ??
I shake my head,
Love Sybil xx

Nina said...

Sometimes I think countries are like families. At least I love my country in the similar way to loving my family - in the sense that I feel very very attached to it, and dread anything happening to it, but I'm aware of its shortcomings and it drives me up the wall with frequency.

What terrifies me is countries being idolised though. And the thing about needing to really love the country because if you are not proclaiming yourself as a passionate patriot, you are one step away from being a terrorist - that's always struck me as a uniquely American phenomenon in the countries of the Western World.

Interestingly, when I was dabbling in astrology and looking at astrology of countries America's astrological identity is wrapped up in both big dreams and self-aggrandisement as well as the perception of greatness by others.

Anyway. Love your post as usual.

Ms. Moon said...

You said what I feel so very well.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

As usual, Sheria, I agree with what you say here.

I certainly have not been proud to be an American at times (particularly during the 8 years that W. occupied the White House).

Hope all is going well for you.

Love, SB.

Mark said...

My post today has several echoes of yours.
I do love this country, but it appalls me how easily so many American immediately equate that with being "better than" other countries. "America is the greatest country in the world" Bullshit. How do we expect a Russian or Hungarian or Englishman to react to that?
As if a conglomeration of millions of some individuals can be "better" than a conglomeratio of millions of other individuals. It's silly.
There is plenty to be proud of and a lot to be ashamed of in this country's history--delineated quite well by you. We need to look at the United States squarely, warts and all.

Nance said...

Once again, my wise friend, you have said what I've been thinking but have held back. There was something about the Bush years that made me conscious of how other countries must see us--which led to stepping outside my narrower views to get another glimpse of our entire history from a perspective that was freer of propaganda.

I first had that glimpse in the late sixties and early seventies, back in my Vietnam War protest days. I got caught up in marriage, child-rearing, and career-building and tried to let the country improve its global image without my help. You remind me that any improvement was largely short-lived and, I fear, another "pygmy of my infatuation" and hope.

If we can't see ourselves as others see us, we're doomed to commit errors in national judgment repeatedly. If we can't see our country as both our beloved home and as just another nation subject to the verdict of history, we are doomed to commit errors in our personal judgment as citizens. Repeatedly.

So grateful for you.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I feel fortunate and gratefull to be citizen, but saddened by some of the faces we are putting forward.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Great post. I've said just about the same thing myself many times.

What makes this country great, I believe, is its constitution, which promises so much, but which too often we citizens do not follow.

As an example, two prominent, long-serving US senators [McCain and Lieberman] have said they are willing to strip a US citizen of his constitutional rights because he has been accused--not convicted--of trying to commit a terrorist act.

That is depressing, but not unusual coming from people who give only lip service to what this country aspires to be through its constitution.

Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Another one that should be etched in stone, Sheria Reid! By the way, I posted an ad for this wonderful site today on the Raleigh Craigslist Political page. Here's a link:


Cheerio! Pip! Pip!
(Going to London next week. Practicing my accent)

Tom Degan

Anonymous said...

Sheria, I know this is extremely old... but, great write up! Excellent insight and opinion based on healthy perspective. If only the majority of Americans could be smart enough to see it this way. Then their would be real hope. Unfortunately, I think most Americans choose to be so uninformed to even come close. Seems like we are outnumbered.