Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reflection and A Birthday Wish

A reader's response to my post on Haiti prompts a brief thought about patriotism and criticism.

To whatever extent the United States has "sins," we did not invent them. If some of our generals and presidents have wielded power aggressively, seeking to colonize land and exploit human beings, they have merely followed in a long human history of doing such things.

We did not invent slavery. We did not invent colonialism. We did not invent militarism or war (although we have done a remarkable job of perfecting them). We did not invent capitalism, poverty, or social stratification. We did not invent pollution -- at least, not alone.

Nor did Americans invent greed, anger, or delusion.

My country is very large, has a painful history that includes violent colonialism, slavery, and aggressive warfare, consumes a great deal of energy per capita, and occupies a dominant role in world affairs. Reflecting on what our country does, how it treats its own people, how it treats people in other countries, and its ecological behavior, is our responsibility as citizens. It remains our responsibility even while the extent to which we participate in our government shrinks, and more openly than ever the legislative process is sold to social elites and large corporations. (Americans didn't invent that, either.)

These "sins" are human sins. They are as old as human society itself. So, however, is the capacity to reflect on them and mature. We need not meekly accept the worst in our nature; there is meaning and value in pointing in a more positive and moral direction. That's part of the American character, too. Martin Luther King, Jr., an American citizen whose birthday we observed earlier this month, is a reminder of this.

Let us reflect on our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, and our country. Let us rise from our contemplations and prayers, and interact with our world with mindfulness and compassion.

That's my birthday wish.


Kelly said...

Happy Birthday, Algernon.

Kyle Lovett said...

Yea, Happy B-Day!

Pam said...

Yes, Happy Birthday, Alg!

And, I firmly believe that, as a whole, we are a compasionate country.

Algernon said...

Pam, no one here has argued otherwise. And I think if you read this post calmly that will be more apparent.

順利 said...
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