Wednesday, August 17, 2011

place in the world

The USA has an internal problem that is having many external effects. It regards our identity and place in the world. We are no longer that little underdog nation that rose up from under oppression, we have become the primary superpower, at least in name. It is not by accident and we certainly don't seem to be shy about it. We like the notion that we're the biggest and baddest, and we want to continue that trend.
The problem is that those notions aren't helping.

Being on top always has the disadvantage of being a target everyone else is focusing on. Expectations rise, scrutiny magnifies, and when you hold power you attract those who desire it greatly. Those people tend not to be the most admirable in intention or practice. The United States have been in this position for years and as such has been experiencing the effects of what I've just described. The question is what to do about it.

When I first had the idea to post about this and started this post it was during a time when I was seeing a lot of the reaction from 9/11/2001. Bumper stickers touting the power of pride were abundant, war to rout the suspected instigators of the attacks was in swing and we were going to get our retribution. Now we've taken out both Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden and are nearly 10 years out from those attacks that kicked the war on terror into full gear. Still, we are in an economic stagnation and face a largely uncertain future with no clear path out. What happened? It seems that the power of pride just (predictably) turned a nation on it's side. The pride of economic product salesmen made decisions about what was or wasn't risky investment wound up profiting them alone while leaving millions more (around the globe no less) in dire straits. The wars that had good intention but poor planning have left our pride and honor in limbo as we balance the monetary and human life costs over the ability to deliver on intention and promises to peoples that have a decidedly love/hate relationship with our presence both in their homeland and in the world.

Despite it all, Americans as a people (aside from the government and it's policies) have recognizably good intentions as we pour out charitable contributions to disasters and humanitarian crises year after year both from personal donations and institutional programs. Our cultural and entertainment products still hold large sway (for better or worse) globally and ultimately the ideals our nation professes to espouse are recognized as preferable. The main issues that arise tend to come from breaching sovereignty of other areas of the globe and of course this is where it gets tricky. There were enormous wars that came out of countries expanding across their borders with hunger for more control over more. We came in to stop those countries and wound up policing the world at large. Stopping those who sought to overpower and control others was what endeared us at one point and I would argue that the same principle is at work against us now in global opinion. It's not actually just the USA although we get the focus because we're at the top, the EU is also a major player. The Western superpowers at the moment draw ire because many countries see us as creeping in with economic structures and controls which leads to political control. Essentially they see us as an invading  force that is simply (primarily) using financial might instead of military influence.

In countries with struggling economic, political, and social situations (sometimes caused by the creep of modern economy onto older, simpler lifestyles and economies) they are particularly wary and sensitive to our system's encroachments. In other major powers there seems to be a fair amount of suspicion as they deal with their own pride and ambition.  Our perception isn't helped when we wind up using military might in areas that have debatable value for the ideals we profess to hold.  It seems that at this point the main issue is what can be seen as the disconnect between stated ideals and action. Of course this is all a very complex situation and different people will have varying stated and actual reasoning for their opinions. What is clear to me is that whatever we do, it should be reflecting our strengths in a respectful and humble manner. We should concentrate on being an example to the rest of the world both in our respect of others and our rhetoric. We should support those who wish to retain their culture and boundaries as well as lend a helping hand in keeping with those boundaries. Our nation wasn't founded on world domination, it was on personal freedoms and creating a safe haven for exercising those freedoms. As good as those ideals are, it can't be forced without sacrificing credibility and credibility is something we can't afford to lose any more than it has been already.

This is a great country and I think we do a lot right, lets shed the parts that aren't helpful and continue striving towards productive goals like our humanitarian efforts at home and abroad. Lets bring back good honest blue collar work with pay that facilitates a decent lifestyle. Let's take down barriers to crops and products that are in place due to specific lobbies and unfair judgement calls. Let's let people make poor decisions and learn from them. Let's continue to clamp down on predatory practices and undue favoritism. We are a nation that is about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Let's act like it, prideful only of the humility in which we implement whatever power we've been blessed with.

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