I am unhappy with my homeland. This realization has been slow developing but it has been steady. A person wants to believe their nation is a great country. American patriotism is an ingrained propaganda based on solid values. After 55 years, much of it remains but much has been whittled away. When you live abroad, you seem to pay closer attention to home than many homelanders do, but it is tempered with a much broader, global perspective. Americans, even the broader thinkers, are myopic to the core. I moved to Canada in 1970. My father was not a draft dodger but a teacher. He had a Masters of Music from UW in Madison which he later upgraded to a PhD. He took a job at the now defunct Nova Scotia Teacher’s College, and we settled into life in this new nation. It was exciting. It was eye-opening. And it was confusing. During grade three in Lodi WI, I made a complete and accurate map of South America. To me Canada was a red blob (the province of Ontario) in the arctic with little to offer but a rustic, backward, third world lifestyle. The quick discovery that Canada was a vibrant, cool place didn’t shock me. What bothered me, and what still bothers me, is I knew almost nothing about the nation.
Many times I have wondered how any American could be unhappy with their country. Unhappiness and disagreement are common and arguably necessary. One doesn’t improve without disagreement. But I mean vitriolic hate. My adult life has all been spent abroad, and I have heard such sentiments. I have no direct quotes, but these are generally not public figures. They hate violence; they hate war; and they hate America’s invasionary habits. While I am immensely unhappy with America, I don’t hate it. I don’t hate the people, as is a common sentiment among expats happy to live abroad who share my sentiments. I have family and friends there. I still hold strong American values, strong human values of right and wrong, of freedom, of liberty and the pursuit o happiness. I still think I hold noble values, but they’ve been tempered by said perspective. My pen [this post] writes to improve.
Living abroad, by no means perfect a perfect existence, has provided a more worldly view. Canada does suffer some of the isolation America does simply from its size and ocean borders, but we’re more multicultural and we have the large French population. We are a multinational nation. And of course we have the Queen. Many are still loyal here. Involvement in World Wars is much, much higher here, absolute and percentage, and ties to Britain and Europe are much higher. Gaelic is still spoken in parts of Nova Scotia. Partridge Island at my home Saint John was Canada’s Ellis Island for almost as many Irish. We think my ancestor Peter Boylan might have come through here in 1848 before making his way to Wisconsin. The truth is, of Jay Leno’s testing of the common citizen are true, I know much more about language, religion, multiculturalism, social-capitalistic balancing, elevating community values above individual (an no, this is not a euphemism for communism), the trade-offs that rule the free world outside the U.S. But we all come from the same stock, and this does not explain America’s myopia. Why America forgets and the rest of the word remembers needs deeper study.
The U.S. is polarized along every imaginable topic: politics, religion, social safety nets, income, race, gender, and even art. Pick a topic and America is divided on it. The government is corrupt, the media is corrupt, organized religion is corrupt, law enforcement is corrupt, the military is corrupt. Pick a topic. I guarantee the country is divided on it and each side thinks the other side is corrupt. My problem is I don’t see mere disagreement. I see more than disgust; I see unadultered hate. I see a nation divided with many sharp, deep wedges. If the dialog gets any drier, what kind of spark will set it off? Militant ranchers attacking a larger government facility? The Texas State Guard taking pot shots at U.S. Marines engaged in harmless exercises? A future president taking real action to limit individual freedoms, as in free speech? A third civil war sounds far-fetched to many, but if history is a measure, America is in trouble.
Is it any wonder America is filled with radicals? America was founded by religious nut bars escaping persecution of their fanaticism, capitalists searching for power and riches, the utterly destitute, refugee after refugee, hosts of military forces, and shipload after shipload of slaves. People with limited agendas, one-dimensional communities, either by free will or by others’ choices. It became hostile to its homelands, and took to arms. It fought off its oppressor and drove out tens of thousands of its own people in what many academics call America’s first civil war. Since 1765 it has isolated itself and thrust forward towards its Manifest Destiny delusions of grandeur. The open, mineral-rich land unencumbered by modern government succumbed and fueled its exasperated growth, and the South thrived on the backs of the blacks. Its pockets swelled. Its heads swelled. Its radicalism and racism entrenched in success.
This nation emits disturbing signals. It’s the “greatest nation on earth,” number one, the leader of the free world and keeper of the peace (right). It’s the land of freedom and democracy. It’s the land of religious freedom and tolerance. The reality is strikingly different. It’s the land that 65 years ago adopted (the Christian) God as its trusted leader. It’s a land that cannot support the United Nations and most other international movements because these are New World Order. It cannot adopt the metric system. It cannot consider changes in government because their constitution is an entrenched gospel. It is a people that arguably have never been able to think critically but for handfuls of academics and social blowhards. America was founded on unfettered growth, but even as they deny the world’s resources are fixed, it continues its mission, “Grow, grow, grow!” I don’t fully agree with Premier Trudeau (yes I have the right to say this), but I do agree with his criticism of Americans: “Americans should pay more attention to the world.” My own words are a little harsher, “Stop being so bloody myopic!”
The conservative in me says the nation suffers from the same inefficiencies its own conservatives claim to disdain: it lacks competition. The U.S. has no close, competitive neighbor. Europe is too busy fighting among themselves and is separated by an ocean. China and Southeast Asia are progressing rapidly and are arguably the modern America, but an even larger ocean separates them. Japan has been contained. Korea ignored. The only true pest since Hitler has been Russia. The U.S. has a monopoly on power, and it is easy to argue America has abused its own dominance to gain further advantage. They still thrive on economic slavery: the pennies an hour labor geared to produce the dollars per hour profits. It treats its own citizens as economic slaves, sucking billions a year through them from foreign economies. American corporations are moving abroad. G.E. and Johnson controls don’t hate America, but doing business abroad is without the American ball and chain. If state-run administration is a recipe for disaster through inefficiency, according to libertarian sentiment, then the U.S. is dying in its own made bed.
What Americans do not realize is the world is not only catching up but in many ways has passed them. We are generally more educated, better trained, more global, more accepting, and more adaptable. The religiously destitute nations excepted. Few countries need America’s help anymore; nobody wants America’s help anymore. We can build our own infrastructure; our computerization and technological advances are on par or better; our education systems are better; our basic research is broader; and our arts have always been more daring and artistic. The world no longer throws spears at the American white man and no longer fears her guns; we wave her away with the back of one hand while typing code with the other.
Whether Americans believe it or not, global warming is real and serious; whether Americans believe it or not, fossil fuel supplies are limited and will run out within hundreds of years; whether Americans believe it or not, metals and minerals are limited and when the crunch comes, all technology will feel the hurt; whether Americans believe it or not, we need a healthy natural world; whether Americans believe it or not, capitalism is not a panacea (I am a fan of competition, but it makes zero sense to make health and incarceration compete); whether Americans believe it or not, drugs are not the danger, guns are; whether Americans believe it or not, human health, education, and social wellbeing are community concerns, not individual; whether Americans believe it or not, kilometers, liters, and degrees Celsius are the better measures; whether Americans believe it or not, our lives are not pre-ordained by a 2000 year old book that is in actuality nowhere near that old; whether Americans believe it or not, evolution is scientifically valid and creationism a fairytale; and whether America believes it or not, it needs the rest of the world to survive. America needs to dump its growth fetish and adopt the mantra, “Change, change, change!” America needs to join the world community of nations as an active participant.
But a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.