johnmac's rants

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jingoism

This posting may annoy some folks, including some of my closest friends (if they read this) but that's ok -- because I'm right. I recently received e-mail entitled "Our European Arrogance", showing all the grave sites of the brave American servicemen who gave their lives during World War II. The implication was that the Europeans have a "hellva nerve disagreeing with us after all we have done for them" -- Nonsense! That was then this is now!


I wrote, in response,:
"What did he apologize for? Nothing that negates the great sacrifices that we made in WWII -- but we can't expect other countries to "follow our lead" if they feel that it goes against their national interest -- just as we must be whatever we perceive as our national interest. It doesn't matter if we are right or France is right; each must follow whatever most benefits and protects its citizens. We should have (and did) go into Afghanistan looking for the guy who designed the attack murdering three thousand of our citizens no matter what France or Germany decided to do.

"The Iraq invasion was controversial, to say the least, and each country had to decide whether there was reason today to put its citizens in "harm's way" -- no matter what we did in WWII. We had awful losses in WWII but it should be remembered that, no matter how much we supported the Allies through aid and Lend Lease before Dec. 7, 1941, we entered the way because we were first attacked by Japan and then declared war on by Germany. It is possible that, had Germany not declared war on us, we would not have entered the war against it -- at least, at that time (but we'll never know).

"The world is complex -- in one way, we are moving toward a true Global Economy with a United Europe (for trade) and, possibly at some time in the future, a United North America or even a United America (one again, for trade) and, at the same time, the radical Muslim Worlds is saying "Stop! -- we don't want your iPods or DVD players or your women dressed like sluts - we'll have none of it" -- The Modernists vs the Anti-Modernists and, while we concentrate on this cultural (and sometime military) battle, the Indians and Chinese slip buy and move into economic and educations supremacy -- Please look at "Did You Know?" We (the US) may not have the discipline and the desire to win."

I then added:

"More rant:

Instead of patting ourselves on the back for what we did in WWII (and past) -- all admirable, we should be straightening out a rotten education system (I get to see what the NYC BofE turns out -- I have bright, industrious student who can't write a paper and don't speak properly -- training they should have received in grammar and high school), putting the same emphasis on Science and Technology that JFK/LBJ brought on for the space race (an effort that gave us the Internet, microprocessor, and other break-throughs as well as the actual space related things).

There are new jobs here in all industries, particularly IT, if our employees have the new skills necessary (unfortunately, the laid off auto works can't become web designers and the Wall Street guys can't become network administrators). Before Gates left Microsoft, he said that Microsoft was getting more creative ideas out of its Beijing lab than anyplace else, including Redmond, WA -- we always thing of ourselves as the innovators and the rest of the world as the copiers. Maybe that was true "then" but now its a dogfight -- and we need a more educated and DEDICATED population.

Not only is it OK for the Europeans to forget WWII, we should put it behind us -- we were the World's technology leader (The Atom Bomb and the first working electronic computer (which was completed after the war ended); we were the world's manufacturing leader (it was our mass production of tanks, jeeps, planes, ships, and weapons that won the war; certainly the American fighting man had to be hroic enough to use them but was the manufacturing, "The Arsenal of Democracy", that won the war). -- now we are neither (we are actually #1 in dollar value of manufacturing but that's because of the high ticket electronics; we have lost steel, autos, etc.).

We pat ourselves on the back constantly -- Obama said that his election "proved the Americann Dream"; Jack Kemp was quoted as saying, before he died "What a great country" about the election and Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan, both of whom couldn't be further away from the president politically, said the same thing. Ok -- it's done -- let's go on from here -- look at that video; why should India have more students on the honor roll than we have students; why can't we lead again -- or at least, have a % of honor students that rivals the Indians???

We are going down the tubes competitively and, no matter what we think of the policies of RR, GHWB, BC, GWB, or Barack Obama, the problem is much deeper than that -- we have a rotten educational system, a nation of citizens who don't know or don't understand (Sean Hannity would send folks out to middle American bars; once he found that the majory of folks didn't know what job Al Gore had -- he was VP then; 4 years later, they didn't know who Dick Chaney was.) -- they react to simplistic slogans -- "Buy American" (oh, yeah? You want to spend $40 for your underwear; $75 for the shirt that you're wearing? -- you want to shut off the California tourist industry?). Some folks admitted to voting for John Kerry because he was tall; others voted for GWB because he looked good in a cowboy hat -- hell of a way to pick a president.

"When Bob Taft was "Mr. Conservative" (before Barry Goldwater), his staff wrote long position papers. Ditto for the voice of Liberalism, Adlai Stevenson -- and people read them. When Ronald Reagan gave "the speech" for Barry Goldwater, millions of people watched it (50 minutes) and Reagan's political career was launched. Can you imagine Americans sitting to watch a person not running for office talk for 50 minutes about a candidate? -- not when the most watched shows like "2 and 1/2 Men" deal with jokes about boobs. In the GWB / Kerry election, most of the talk was whether GWB skipped out on the National Guard during the Vietnam War and whether Kerry deserved his medals -- things that happened 30 years before -- what about "What is your plan for tomorrow?" The whole election was a disgrace on both sides.

"Bottom Line -- we can do better -- but we deserve what we get."

After being told that my rants were not germane to the original subject, I said:

"Sure I did -- and I re-stated it below -- but I'll try to be clearer here,

"1. What we did in World War II was for our own interest -- to defeat a lunatic who declared one on us, the day after his buddies sneak-attacked us at Pearl Harbor.
2. A result of us defeating the loony was the liberating of Fraqnce from German occupation.
3. No one can deny that US soldiers fought bravely and many many died on French soil -- but the present government of France owes our present or recent government no more than we owe them for Lafayette -- its duty is to its citizens and only to us if it benefits its citizens.
4. GWB struck most folks as arrogant, whether he meant to or not. Obama said that, while we may have been in the past, we will no longer be. We want to be a partner, where possible. I agree with all that.
5. He also said we were absolutely right in going after the nasties who killed 3,000 of our citizens and that we will continue to do that (in other words, not open to negotiation if anyone doesn't like it). I agree with that too.

"The point that I then made (and made more strongly here) is that the whole history deal is nonsense. It is totally irrelvent to today's problems what we did sixty years ago in a very different climate and world situation -- China was under Chiang; Russia under Stalin -- both our friends and Japan and German were out hated enemies. That game is long over and to get petty about it -- "Remember what we did for you" takes away from our attention to the very real problems of today.

"and then I went off on education and plight we are in compared to the Chinese and Indians."

And that was the end of the discussion there -- but it got me thinking more about what I consider jingoism and false patriotism. We often hear the "proud to be an American" and Michelle Obama was raked over the coals for saying "For the first time, I'm proud to be an American". Why? I'm never "proud to be am American"; we are proud of something that WE have done or, loosely, that Our Family has done. Wikipedia defines Pride in the following manner: Pride is, depending upon context, either a high sense of the worth of one's self or one's own or a pleasure taken in the contemplation of these things. One definition of pride in the first sense comes from Augustine: "the love of one's own excellence." ["Est autem superbia amor proprie excellentie, et fuit initium peccati superbia."] In this sense, the opposite of pride is humility.

So, I'm not proud to be an American; I'm grateful to be an American and consider myself extremely lucky to have been born here. I did nothing to deserve this luck but, because of this accident of fate, I feel that I (and all others who call themselves American) have an obligation to the society -- to do national service, to pay taxes for the benefit of the citizenry, and to do what I can to improve the society through voting, education, political pressure, etc.

I had no relatives at Omaha Beach but I am grateful to those who made the ultimate sacrifice; I look in awe at the wisdom of the Founding Fathers -- Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Madison, Washington and unnamed others -- for the documents and framework that they gave us and the courage they showed in founding this great country. So, once again, I am very grateful but not proud (for I had nothing to do with their actions -- all I can say is "thank them .. and thank God")

If I have any pride in others it would be in my four grandparents, who, separately, left their homes in Ireland to come to the United States, looking for a better life; in my parents -- my father, a tough New York City cop who put his life on the line daily and my mother who became a single parent upon his untimely and accidental death when I was eleven; my brother, who impacted thousands of lives in his thirty years as a professor; my incredible wife, whose countless contributions amaze me; my children, who have become successful and happy in their chosen fields; and my own accomplishments, particularly those in education where I have been told "You've changed my life". In a narrower sense, it's only my own actions that I can take pride in -- I'm grateful for the actions of grandparents. parents, and wife and happy for the success of my children .. and, once again, I'm grateful that I had the luck to be born an American"

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