My America, Our America

Went to a "Steering" meeting for our UU group. Interesting conversations...though I felt out of it (tired as heck after the days pull of, cleaning, art, allergy shot, etc). I probably should have had a coffee but didn't feel very much like it. Anyway, I've decided to try and be a bit more proactive with being Unitarian. I like our group and what's more I like what we're doing. Jon and I talked on the way home and I felt a wave of cynicism flood over me. Thoughts that kept coming up...lots of people in our area are very depressed, negative, or just don't care. Jon told me that a poll was taken in Britian and it basically said what do you think of Americans?
"Britons questions described Americans as uncaring, divided by class, awash in violent crime, vulgar, preoccupied with money, ignorant of the outside world, racially divided, uncultured and in the most overwhelming result (90 percent of respondents) dominated by big business."
They said we had little or no spirituality basically, were obsessed with money matters and were mainly apathetic. I hate to agree with this, but it just seems like the case.

It saddens me to identify with an America like the one drawn by the British. What bothers me most is I can't disagree with a lot of the descriptions used. However, I do challenge them in that there are uncaring people on one hand and there lots more caring people on the other...I see this every day from people helping others emotionally, physically, monetarily. I see caring people going all out to rescue a bird injured by an electric wire or a dog lost. Yes, there is cruelty and apathy and these should be criticized and learned from.

I can definitely say we are divided by class and very much so by race...just thinking about New Orleans and the lack of response to the area is a huge example. I also learned that because a lot of the constituents of the area are in such poverty that they rely on pay check to pay check living, many just didn't have the money to leave the area. This is America where you have people living on $500,000 and more. Oh, and trillions are spent on this war we have going on in Iraq. Amazing.

I will not try to defend a whole country we have failed ourselves and betrayed ourselves countless times over. We promote and accept laws that would do the greatest damage to our elders, to our children, and to some of the hardest working like farmers and the working poor. It enrages me and makes me realize how very much we have to work to correct and at least talk about these things.

I do believe in hope...something very few associate with America, apparently. Some people still believe in hope because we have people from other countries trying to make it to and in this old United States. And these very people are scorned, made fun of and treated as inhuman because of their color, language or class level. When my father came to America, he came through a program that sponsored people of the Christian faith and was able to get to America as one seeking asylum as well. I know many people who come to America are in very similar circumstances or worse. For my dad, his was coming from a country (Bulgaria) that was under a dictatorship rule at the that didn't allow freedom of religion or worship. And yet, in America he was made fun of because of his accent and the way he looks. Actually, he still is treated poorly (but that is another story).

And these are the very things that made America such a great place. The freedoms like being able to say what needs to be said, the religious freedoms and yet within those very freedoms we have people taking advantage of them and trying to change the laws to deny us of the very rights we celebrated on July 4th.

Another part of the poll was that Americans are ignorant of the outside world and are dominated by big business. Boy is this ever the case...just thinking about all the businesses that once were something in America are now manufactured in countries under the poorest environmental standards, the poorest treatment of workers and the cheapest possible pay. Why did these companies leave? Because we wanted better pay, better or clean air? Did they leave because we had the nerve to say no, we don't want you to dump crap into our waters and cause cancer in the people and environments? These are freedoms we took for granite and we allowed big business to run away from their responsibilities and crap on the weak and poor in other countries. Yet, another reason why we should be boycotting products that are made under poor working conditions and under corrupt laws.

I see this poll as a time to reflect and see how truthful we can be about ourselves. Do we get defensive and try to justify our actions (or inactions) or do we say, enough. Time to make a difference. Time for me to reduce my TV time and volunteer at the neighborhood park committee. Time for me to propose ways for the city to put in walking paths to stores instead of pure driving. Time for me to support local small business venues. Time for me to look past the packaging and find more substance and quality in my life.

I believe the saying that it just takes one person. One person to say, I'm going to pick up trash, I'm going to plant tree seeds, I'm going to talk to that person and get the ball rolling about cross walks and so on. It's a matter of saying I will try.

I remember once someone said, "That's my good deed for the day." I liked that so much I try to do at least one good thing a day. Sometimes I barely make it to one good thing...others, I can do a few good things. What can you do today that will qualify as a good deed? I'm sure there are plenty of people out there we pass by in life...can we share a smile? Can we say "Good day to you"? We can and we must try.

I, for one, am ashamed of the poll. Not because of the poll but because of what people think of my America. I'm not a nationalist but I do live in the boundaries of the US and feel like I, we can do better. We can do better. Whether it's sending a handwritten letter to congress or protesting in the streets, we must do this if we have a sense of our selves, to protect our brothers and sisters near and far and those we will never know.


islandarts said…
Great post, I am Canadian but a lot of your points can work for anyone is ANY country.
Emily said…
Thanks, Islandarts~ I appreciate your comment...and yes, we (no matter where we live) can do this.

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