Tuesday, January 28, 2003

(cross-posted at my blog)

Dammit, I'm proud to be an American.

But why do I feel somewhat guilty in writing that phrase?

Tonight I watched my first State of the Union address, while living in a foreign country. It was a bit weird. For one, none of the 3 channels in the apartment carried it, so I had to scamper online to find a live feed. While watching the tiny screen on my laptop, I felt all sorts of things. I felt a bit disconnected -- I think that is largely due to the fact I'm so far away from home (not necessarily US, but a long ways from GA!). Up here there's been more protesting about the upcoming military action, so I haven't been as swamped with newscasts about it like I would be back home. Then again, if I was back home I think I would be feeling the pressure in a different sense -- mainly due to the fact Savannah is within an hour's distance of 2 large Army bases (whose troops have already been deployed).

I think that I'm definitely more sensitive to the language Bush used in his speech. Being away from the American media, plus back in a rhetorical frame of mind, helps with that I'm sure. It was interesting to note the different times he used the ploy "We're Americans and can do whatever we feel right" along with appeals to the international community and cooperation. I think the former largely outweighed the latter.

That's where I feel so torn. I mean, America is my home. I love the fact that I can call myself an American -- despite the popular notion it is to bash it and condemn its policies. And by bashing it I don't just mean here in Canada -- even back home its sometimes viewed as "academic" to be critical of many elements of "American-ness" (yes, I just made up a word, thank-you-very-much!).

So while I'm proud of my identity in some ways, I'm also very troubled by certain aspects of it.

It bothers me that so much of our nation's intentions are prefaced by the fact we're doing this "because we're America." Hearing statements like these bothered me:

In all of these efforts, however, America’s purpose is more than to follow a process - it is to achieve a result: the end of terrible threats to the civilized world. All free nations have a stake in preventing sudden and catastrophic attack. And we are asking them to join us, and many are doing so. Yet the course of this Nation does not depend on the decisions of others. Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary, I will defend the freedom and security of the American people.


The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm. America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country, and our friends, and our allies. The United States will ask the UN Security Council to convene on February 5th to consider the facts of Iraq’s ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraq’s illegal weapons programs; its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors; and its links to terrorist groups. We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.

But he did raise some vaild points, regarding Saddam -- in addition to the facts he laid out about disregarding UN regulations:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

While that's a tad bit overstated, I do think there's some merit in what's behind it.

The highlight of the speech, for me:

Ladies and gentlemen, seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many. We have confronted, and will continue to confront, HIV/AIDS in our own country. And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief - a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa. This comprehensive plan will prevent seven million new AIDS infections … treat at least two million people with life-extending drugs … and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS, and for children orphaned by AIDS. I ask the Congress to commit 15 billion dollars over the next five years, including nearly ten billion dollars in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.
This Nation can lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature. And this Nation is leading the world in confronting and defeating the man-made evil of international terrorism.

Interesting transition -- from peaceful relief efforts, right into the bit on terrorism. I really hope he means to follow through on this promise of AIDS relief, and isn't just using it as speech fodder to lesson the "big-bully" worldview of the US. It's something we should have been doing *years* ago, in my opinion.

And finally, the big closer:

Americans are a resolute people, who have risen to every test of our time. Adversity has revealed the character of our country, to the world, and to ourselves.
America is a strong Nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers.
Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.
We Americans have faith in ourselves - but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.
May He guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Again with the mixing of God and politics. I'm finding that this is a trait that is very-American. You don't ever hear any Canadian officials ranting, "God Bless Canada!" It's definitely a loaded statement. While I hope that God does continue to bless my country, I don't want that blessing at the expense of other countries. "God Bless America" is an interesting type of enthymeme. In other words, there's a whole lot of assumptions left out of that conclusion. If "God Blesses America", does that mean he then punishes its enemies (or at least gives them a disadvantage to the US)? Does that statement mean that God should only bless America? All of a sudden, I'm not so comfortable with that statement's hidden meanings.

That said, I am appreciative of the fact that I can question my government and country without fear of reprisal. And its late now so I should get some sleep.

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