Dear America: I Love You. But.

 

Dear America,

Happy birthday. I hope you have a good one. Celebrate, enjoy the fireworks and parades. Soak up the love.

A lot of people love you, I think you know that. And so do I.

Yes, I love you. It’s impossible not to love the place where I was born, where I was raised and learned about life, about baseball and rock ‘n roll. I learned the fundamentals of my faith in your land. I started my own family with you.

No, seriously, I do love you! I know that may surprise you. I don’t show my emotions openly. I don’t like most displays of patriotism, because I consider them gratuitous. To whom do I have to prove my patriotism? I live here, I pay taxes, and I vote. There – I’m a patriot.

I don’t really think I have to wear a flag pin to be an American, just like I don’t have to have a fish sign on my car to be a Christian. And I don’t understand why we have to sing our praise to you twice in the middle of every baseball game. It is just a game, after all.

Yet, I’ll state it again – I love you.

And because I love you, I think I have the obligation to admonish you. I’ve kept up a lovers’ quarrel with you for years now, but it’s becoming worse.

You have a problem, America. This is an intervention. I’m speaking up because I want the best for you, and for the people whom you nurture and inspire, and for the people whom you ignore, condemn, and torture.

You are not special.

There, I’ve said it.

You are not special. You think you are, but you are not. You have told us for years that you are the pinnacle of democracy, freedom, and liberty in the world. You have spun myths and legends to perpetuate the idea that you are a “city set on a hill” by God Himself, a “new Israel” chosen above all other nations. You keep telling us that the Founding Fathers were somehow divinely inspired in writing the country’s foundational documents.

We know this isn’t true, America. We know that you are deceiving yourself – and us – with these tales.

This deceit is deadly, because it convinces you that you are above international law, beyond suspicion, and under God’s special protection. These untruths serve to justify every war, every injustice, every ugly episode.

But I see how you treat other nations. I hear the arrogance in your voice. You get away with bullying others because you have immense military and economic power. You run roughshod over others because you can.

I will confess that I’ve not been an entirely faithful lover, America. I have lived in other places for extended periods of time. What I learned in those places is not that I love you less, but that other places are just as worthy of love and adoration.

Those other places need your love, too. They are worthy of appreciation, of respect and dignity. Why don’t you give it to them?

You are but one nation on an enormous planet which requires cooperation, mutual respect, and diversity in order for prosperity and peace to flourish. You are not more special than Mozambique or Mauritania, Iran or Iceland, Great Britain or Vietnam.

They deserve a place where their children can play and learn to read, where their mothers and fathers can raise children and earn a living wage, where music and art and technology create a living interplay of culture and ideas. They deserve fresh air, clean water, and fertile soil.

Ah, but I know why you don’t love the others. You fear them. You are afraid of different colors, foreign languages, strange religions. You distrust the others. And so you insist on keeping them at arm’s length.

And I do mean “arm.” Military arms. Weapons. Guns and bombs and tanks and jets and drones. You obviously don’t trust anyone else unless you’re carrying the biggest stick imaginable. And while you’re carrying that stick, everyone else looks like a terrorist.

Now I’m beginning to wonder if I can trust you. It’s that lack of trust that will kill a relationship, America. I hope it doesn’t kill ours.

Because I’m holding on the best I can. Your purple mountains and golden fields of wheat are beautiful, yes, and your ancient words of promise and freedom are noble. But you’ve become something unrecognizable.

Please remember, America: I don’t love you because I think you’re special, or because you are better than all the other nations, or because you are somehow more authentically “Christian,” or because you have a higher standard of living.

I love you because you’re my mother and father, and everything I am and have basically comes from you. You are in my blood.

You can do better than this. You can be better. And I will be at your side.

 

Sincerely,

Wes

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4 comments

  1. revkennydickson

    Every time I go to a weekly service organization meeting, they pledge allegiance “to the greatest country in the world, or sometimes, the history of the world.” I always wonder if other countries believe the same about their country? Does Spain believe that? Does England? Does Italy?Does Russia? or is it unique to the U.S?.

    • wesmagruder

      In my experience, it is unique to the US. I never heard that kind of talk in Cameroon. Nor in the UK, though there was some sense that they had been much greater in the past than they were in the present. Also, I have never experienced national flags in a worship space in any other country except the US.

  2. Henry Lessner

    Wes – I had not seen this blog – but would like to comment. I too have seen the world – been to 62 countries and many of them numerous times…..as well as managed projects in most of the rest of the world. The main thing I learned from my travels is that humanity is very similar…..as you say….all people want is safety for their family, a good school for their children, clean water to drink, etc. That being said, where we diverge in our thinking is that I think that the USA is indeed a unique place because of our freedom……freedom of opportunity, freedom of religion, freedom of press, rule of law, property rights, etc. The enemy to those folks in other countries is not the USA….it is their own governments. Corruption is endemic….the powerful rule over and exploit the weak…..governments chose their favorites….and the opportunity to improve ones family’s position in life is severely limited. This is not only he case in so called third world countries like Cameroon…but also in the EU countries and other developed countries. .I do not attribute the uniqueness of the USA to God’s favor….God favors all people…..but there were some exceptionally smart folks who out of the Judeo-Christian tradition placed a premium on freedom….unalielable rights…..and put those thoughts into documents that we all ought to sit and read every once in a while. I do not agree those on the “right” getting their religion and patriotism mixed up…thinking that God somehow favors the USA…….but God’s hand through His spirit will hopefully continue to guide men’s hearts in this country to be a light of freedom for those oppressed around the world.

    • wesmagruder

      Henry, I don’t understand your contention that America is unique because of our freedom. There are many countries which have exactly the same kinds of freedom that we have. Namely, the UK, where I lived for two years. What in the world is different about the UK from the US in those terms? Practically any other European country is similar, as well as Australia, South Africa, etc. I will grant that, historically, America was one of the first to enshrine certain of those freedoms into law, but still, to assert that our freedom is somehow unique is not exactly accurate in our contemporary world.

      This blog was really meant to be a shot at American exceptionalism, which I think we would all do well to disavow, not only because it leads to arrogance and hubris, but also because it keeps us from acknowledging our role in terrible injustice. Our founding fathers may have been “smart folks” who created some great documents, but the truth is that America is no morally better than any other country, and in many ways, may be far worse, given our complicity in the last 300 years in such things as: slavery, genocide of native peoples, exploitation of other countries for mineral resources, trafficking weapons around the world, torture, wars, and a host of other horrors.

      Our talk about democracy and human rights and freedoms rings a bit hollow in the ears of the rest of the world which has experienced something quite different from us.

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