Something has been weighing on my mind of late. Well, many things have been weighing so heavily that I lie awake most nights, but there is one thing in particular that I feel a need to expound on. I’m not even sure what to call it or where to begin, so I’ll just let my thoughts ramble for a bit if that’s alright with you.
Lately I hear a lot of talk about ‘patriotism’ and ‘loyalty’, but it seems to me that the definitions of those words defy my own set of values. I no longer consider myself a citizen of any one country, but rather a citizen of the world. I don’t only care for the people of the United States, but for people all over the world. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine who are being killed, left homeless, and driven out of their homes, their country, by the cruel and evil dictator of Russia. The Ukrainians matter. They matter as much as the Americans.
Within the United States, it’s a damn shame that we have to be reminded that Black Lives Matter, but we do need reminding … every day. When a man enters a grocery store intent on killing only Black people, what does that say about our society?
Patriotism is defined as “the quality of being patriotic; devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.” I am finding it harder than ever these days to feel either devotion or vigorous support for this nation … a nation where some 30% of people fought against simple protections such as wearing a mask in public venues and being vaccinated against the deadliest disease we have experienced in a century. How can I ‘vigorously support’ a nation where lawmakers do not care one whit about our lives or the lives of our children, steadfastly refusing to even consider giving up their donations from the gun industry in order to pass laws that would ultimately prevent such incidents as Buffalo and Uvalde last month? And how can I feel patriotism to a nation where people no longer care about others, where people claim to be a part of a ‘tribe’ that excludes most people?
We finally have a president who is trying to do the right thing, but finding the roads blocked by Congress at every turn and not given a fair trial in even the most mainstream of the media. Most of the states in this nation are doing everything in their power to prevent children from learning our real history, the facts that have made us who we are. Most of the states are also doing everything in their power to make it harder for young people, poor people, and people of colour to vote, because those are the very people whose votes would likely remove the greedy, arrogant politicians from state and federal government.
Once upon a time, our world was very limited, very small, and the only things that we thought mattered were the ones in our own backyard. Today, that has all changed. Once upon a time, it would take you weeks to travel to foreign lands, today it takes mere hours. Once upon a time, simply sending a letter to a relative on the other side of the country took weeks if it got there at all, now it takes 2-3 days, or better yet, now you can email friends and relatives anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds. The world has changed, but many people in the U.S. want it to stay the same as it was 250 years ago when the U.S. was largely isolated, when women were slaves to their menfolk and Blacks were slaves to wealthy, arrogant plantation owners. That isn’t the world we live in today! Today we have so many advantages, but people don’t wish to accept the responsibilities that accompany those advantages.
I keep hearing the phrase “America First”. Bullshit! The United States is one of 195 countries on the globe. We have approximately 4% of the world’s population. Think about that, my friends … 4%. Why should the people of the U.S. think they are the leaders of the world? They aren’t … we aren’t! We are just another group of people sharing a plot of land that is less than 2% of the world’s land mass. That’s right … the U.S. is approximately 3,677,649 square miles, which is 1.867% of the total land mass on the planet. And yet, Americans think they are better than Mexicans, Columbians, or people from virtually any nation, especially those that are not European. Arrogance!
This is now a global world, and we are but one small piece of it. There is no room for “America First” or for the egos that accompany such a notion. Patriotism? Pah! Yes, of course people want to ‘belong’ and I don’t deny that, but when belonging means denigrating or dehumanizing others, then it is dead wrong. People who don’t care about Ukrainians and all they are going through, or who are only thankful it wasn’t their child shot in Uvalde last week without a care for the families of the 19 children and two teachers who were shot … those people are self-focused, arrogant in their own way. Those who would put their ‘right’ to go without a mask, to refuse the vaccine, to insist on their ‘right’ to own and carry a gun … I have no use for such people. Those who care not about the damning effects of wasting fuel driving to the end of the street or keeping their homes at just the perfect temperature, who fly to wherever for a fun vacation without a care for the damage that plane is doing to the planet, I also have no use for.
Every nation, just like every human, is special in its own way, with strengths and weaknesses, good and bad. The U.S. is just one nation and we, too, are a mixture of good and bad, but we are not any more special than the people of Uganda or Haiti … we are all just people, most of us trying our best to figure out how to survive and how to be the best we can be, to help leave the world just a little better than we found it. Let’s worry less about nationalism, patriotism, and the rest of the -isms and just try to care about everyone, to do small things when we can, and support bigger things when we see the opportunity. Let’s forget about being ‘Americans’ and be citizens of the world.