March 07, 2004
But the world doesn't hate us, the American people. It is our government, our military, and our corporations that are resented. To anyone living outside the US, this may seem an obvious point.
But to many people living inside the US, especially those who are proud to be American, this is not obvious. This ticks us off.
Being American is a choice, in a way that being French or Chinese or Norwegian never could be. It is a state of mind, an espousing of an ideology, and a label that defies race and ancestry. There are many people with US citizenship that aren't truly American in their thinking, and many people in other countries who are Americans waiting to happen. Being American has nothing to do with being born in a certain country, which is why Hertsgaard's quote makes no sense to me. In my mind, being American means wanting to be American and wanting to represent what our country stands for.
I know a woman here of Turkish descent who is the third generation in her family to be born on German soil. Her grandparents and parents all lived here in Germany. She's probably close to 30 years old. She just got her German citizenship. Third generation, finally recognized.
I also know a soldier from Paraguay who moved to NYC in 2002. He arrived knowing no English whatsoever and enlisted in the Army one year later. After Basic and AIT, he headed to Germany where he enrolled in our American History course at the education center. His desire to get an education and become an American has brought him headaches and tears, trying to read a chapter in the history book when he's taught himself English in 18 short months, but he works hard at it nonetheless.
Is this woman a German? She's known nothing but Germany her whole life, but she's obviously not been accepted as a citizen until quite recently. Is this soldier an American? You bet your ass he is. He might not have all the paperwork done yet, but he wears her flag on his right shoulder and he carries her spirit in his heart.
I've met soldiers with all sorts of accents; off the top of my head I can recall South American, African, Portuguese, Haitian, Polish, and Algerian. They've all made the choice to defend America and all she stands for, to proudly wear her uniform, and to accelerate their application for citizenship so that they can live and work in her cities. Would they bother to do this if being American had nothing to do with "our government, our military, and our corporations"?
When I was young and naive, I used to try to reason with people like Mark Hertsgaard. I tried to understand why the Swiss guy hated the USA when I was the first American he'd ever met. I tried to placate the Croatian who said he didn't want to speak to me anymore because we were bombing his hometown. I tried to understand how other Europeans could talk such trash about my country and not expect me to get offended. "Hey, it's not you we hate, it's your country; can't you see that?"
If you can look at these soldiers and not see how precious the USA is, then you don't grok. If you can't see that being American means making the choice to work with all different walks of life to make the best country we can be, then you don't grok. And if you can't see that Americans are who they are because of "our government, our military, and our corporations", then you truly don't grok.
Posted by: Amritas at March 07, 2004 07:58 AM (thYAp)
Posted by: Blueshift at March 07, 2004 09:44 PM (crTpS)
Posted by: Amritas at March 08, 2004 05:47 AM (ukofp)
Posted by: Amritas at March 08, 2004 05:52 AM (ukofp)
Posted by: Blueshift at March 09, 2004 02:35 AM (crTpS)
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