Reflections ~ Where has my country gone?

Originally published January 10, 2016

‘Tis the season. We are heading into the last lap of an election season. A sport that, in America, seems to go on forever. Costing billions and sometimes accomplishing no more than we might if we chose Miss. Universe to lead the country. In the interest of keeping up my new persona of activist, this blog grew out of what was going to be a simple Facebook post. It was inspired by this wonderful video.

I looked up the original speech given by Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator, a politically sensitive film made while Hitler was rising to power and people were not really certain of how to react, or weren’t paying attention at all. By the time it was released, there was a very different attitude. Here is the speech as reproduced on the Charlie Chaplin – Official Website.

Things changed dramatically for this country. A transition that occurred in mid century led us to where we are today. Not just in our country, but in many nations. We are at a point in human history when we can, quite realistically, destroy all that is human, and the very globe on which we live. This is not the destiny we were created to fulfill. This is true whether you believe that creation originates with a superior intelligence or as a fact of a creating, evolving universe.

It saddens me that the country I was born in is no longer that country. I cry every time I see our flag, hear our anthem, and watch as our country tears itself apart. A video clip I ran across some time ago explains some of the reasons why we are no longer who we were, and something of the arrogant delusion we accept as gospel truth. Language warning.

As given by one of the characters in the Aaron Sorkin production, The Newsroom, the statistics are shattering. As of the airing of this episode of the series (2012), this is where we stood.

“We are 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force and number 4 in exports. We lead in three categories – number of incarcerated citizens per capital, number of adults who believe in angels, and defense spending.”

The Business Insider added a few more, as well as support for some of the statistics mentioned above in their article found here

And I’ll add one of my own. One of the reasons that our economy was strong and we were a country of innovation and invention was that our universities were open to the world. The best and the brightest from every corner of the globe traveled to study in our schools and contribute to our research. Not anymore. After 9-11 the hurdles for entering the country on a student visa became so onerous that we lost one of our greatest assets: the ability to educate the best and reap the benefits.

But we used to be great, really great. (from The Newsroom clip)

“We stood up for what was right, we fought for moral reasons, we passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured disease, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy.”

But, we changed. Now, even in the process of electing our officials, we are at each other’s throats. Even when we do arrive at some selection, the level of disrespect for our leaders is abysmal. And dangerous. A world is watching—a world we have been preaching to for decades. Telling them they must become free and elect officials and adhere to a code of law. Statistics quoted by Sorkin include that out of 207 countries in the world, 180 are considered free. Having elections, a free press, and some adherence to human rights. We are beating our chests soundlessly and the whole world is learning that the Emperor does indeed have no clothes.

Across the globe, nations are recognizing the sins of their past and working hard to make viable restitution for slavery, and the genocide of indigenous peoples. In the U.S. we fight those options tooth and nail and continue to embed those legacies in our treatment of “people not like us.” Arrogance. Delusion. Fear. It is no longer a war against Christianity, Islam or anyone other identifiable label—it is a war against humanity.

This is not who we are. It is not who we were meant to be. Not as citizens of what was once a great country; and not as members of homo sapiens.

Now is the time to hold our leaders accountable. To let them know that we will not allow intolerance to rule. To let them know we are not eternal warriors looking for the next head to hang on the city gates. Now is the time to seek a solution that is intelligent, creative, and builds for a future worthy of who we are.

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