You would like my friends. They are polite, well-mannered and kind. They wish the best for everyone, and often volunteer their time and energy for charitable causes. My friends are genuinely sweet people. But they are also a part of what is wrong with the United States today.
My friends love the United States. Is that a problem? Absolutely not. But a close reading of what they write and say reveals interesting choices in their wording.
They say, “I have to believe this is the greatest country in the world.” They “have to believe” President Bush can see what is happening in Iraq, so his responses must be the correct ones and they “have to believe” that the world would be a better place if we all prayed more.
Maybe it would be, but in their version, prayers are not offered facing Mecca or on prayer wheels high in the Himalayas.
I know it all can seem harmless. But this is the kind of thinking pointed out by Aaron McGruder, creator of The Boondocks comic strip. As one character says, they tried so hard in The Passion of the Christ for authenticity that the movie is in Aramaic, but they still cast a white man to play Jesus. I must admit, I did not notice this until McGruder pointed it out.
It is an old saying in a new form: If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If your country is the best in the world, then it must, in any conflict with another country, be correct.
The United States has no reason to change; we are, after all, the best. Never mind that top entertainers and athletes remake themselves constantly to remain on top of their game. We are No. 1, so we need never change.
You may wonder what brings these thoughts to mind. It is the increasing violence in Iraq. The Iraqi cities of Najaf and Kut are no longer controlled by coalition forces, but U.S.
Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez says Kut will be retaken. What happens then is anyone’s guess, but I think it is safe to say that the violence will not end anytime soon.
The Iraqis are spoken of as rebels and insurgents, yet it is their country. Is it so hard to admit the United States might be wrong in Iraq? All we wanted to do was bring them democracy, right? And of course we must support our president, right? Donald Rumsfeld continues to say that at the root of the violence are a small number of “thugs, gangs and terrorists,” who apparently are not among those who have to believe the United States is the greatest country in the world. Since we are the best, we are correct and anyone who questions this is wrong.
I have tried to tell my friends that Iraqis might love their country just as my friends love the United States. I have tried to tell them that many in Iraq pray on a regular basis, even though their prayers look and sound different. I have tried to tell them that everybody in the world does not want to become American, and that it is not a character defect if they reject American culture. I have tried to tell them all these things, but it does not seem to matter. They have to believe this is the greatest country on Earth.
William Lodge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.