I am feeling sad right now about being an American. Perhaps it is more disappointment than anything. I was raised to believe that America was unique in its quest for freedom and justice. I didn’t know that freedom for some meant oppression for others. I grew up believing in peace not realizing that our country has had its hand in the promotion and perpetuation of wars around the world throughout its brief history. We were different, I believed. Those other countries are responsible for the ills of the world. They had the bad leaders.
This is the result of studying history, I suppose. It is like learning the deep dark secrets of your own family. One tries to hide the truth because we want to believe we are better than others. But we aren’t. We are like other families or countries with mixed histories.
My desire for America to be a beacon of righteousness in the world was unrealistic. The only ones who really believed we were beacons, I believe, were Americans. To uphold this image we have denied the manner in which our country came to be. We have white washed our involvement in the oppression of people in other lands and in their civil wars, supporting leadership that harms their own people because it benefits our agendas. We haven’t been honest and unless we are honest, we will never move onto a better path.
What I am learning is that high expectation is the real problem. I need to accept that my country is just as vulnerable to corruption as any other. It is also has just as much cause to be proud as any other. My family, as well, is just as capable of dysfunction as any other. But that doesn’t erase our moments of greatness. What I am learning about my country and my family is true of myself as well. In fact, I learned this truth about myself first. I am not the perfect person I used to think I was. I have done my share of harm in the world thus far. But I am also a child of God and have moments when I act as such.
Is this what one would call yin and yang? The positive and negative, one’s goodness and one’s shadow living side-by-side. It is life as life. We are all great and we are all small as individuals, as families and as nations. Disappointing, but true. At least we are in this together.