Tuesday, September 12, 2017

When disaster strikes ..this who I see as Americans

In the recent news from around the world there reads an underlying "I knew it"  tone.   The despots and dictators seem to like the whole nationalist undertone they are seeing, they should they use it in their own justifications.   The rest of the world though has always had a bit of a chip on it's shoulder about the U.S.   Now they say it - see I told you so -- they are arrogant, only care about themselves, are bullies. Yet I wander much like we assume things by seeing them on tv can we all do what Depeche Mode says and "let me see you make decisions without your televisions?"

Some of it is warranted.  In many ways the US is this giant baby that looks over the world.  The curiosity, the sense of possibility, the occasional drool, the odd naiveté that always thinks it can do something even when chances point to no.  It is omnipresent even in countries that denounce it, it after all is part of that conversation just as much.   It is also temperamental, needs a lot of attention and somehow has a lot of adult powers that took others whole centuries to get to and then cede.

There is also a small wrinkle of the nose at a place made up of people who left the countries that wrinkle said nose because these were not the upper echelons, so how could be bigger, faster, wealthier now ?  These were the poor, the down trodden, the ones from countries that told them not to dream big, not to think they can get out and they did.  They not only did but then they were the ones that have had to help these worlds that they left behind.

I am an American by choice but it has been hard for me lately.  I know that many are struggling. I am angry to know there are people in this nation who go to bed without food, children who cannot get an education, people who cannot get medical treatments because they cannot afford them.  There are people who want a job but jobs were taken by technology.   These are scared and angry people but they seem to be scared and angry in a misdirected way.  They forget their ancestors were treated as bad or worse then they want to treat people today.  Your anger should be at those that hold the power to offer opportunities not the ones that want them the same way you do.

This is America and these past few weeks we have seen devastation from fires and hurricanes.  I do not see people there who are anything but Americans in need.  I see others helping one another and sending relief aid and money where they can.  I see people mobilize and ask the famous JFK question not what can this country do for them but what can they do for this country.  For their fellow Americans who when the waters and fires came were not spared or engulfed because of who they love, the color of their skin, the god they prayed to or didn't.  They were Americans, ordinary people who just want what pretty much people around the world do.  To take care of their families, to have opportunities, to be treated with dignity and respect.  Most of us see those who help but there are a few folks who seem to only focus on those who loot.  The looters are the small minority and should be punished, the helpers are the majority of us.   When you focus only on the negative it says everything about you and your smallness.  It is easier - but we do not do easy in the US. We are known for doing what is in our wandering spirit - we do what we are told we cannot.

It was the anniversary of 9/11 this week.  I am always reminded of the quiet way this vast city I live in was full of grey people, made so by ash, where we asked each other what can I do to help.  I am reminded of the quiet way people from across the nation and around the globe offered comfort and help.  I am reminded of the way we as a country are known for our generosity across the globe when disasters strike anywhere.

I love American optimism, it is easy to make fun of it, but without it there is no hope, no making the impossible possible.  Those who want to deny us optimism want to have us live in the dark while they guard the light switch.

People - treating each other as people - helping others when they need it.  That is the American people that I cherish, those are the people who are patriots.   Be the Americans that the rest of the world is annoyed by, the baby with a lot of toys but who shares some and who is full of that infectious giggle and curiosity. They may be annoyed by the baby but let's face it they will tolerate it and know they need it, we do not want to be the sullen teenager.  We are better than that, flawed, with a nasty past, but with a connection in this land someone chose to come to or someone chose to stay in.

We are the best when disaster strikes so maybe we can continue to the best when the fires and the waters recede.  I am an American by choice because I believe that we can do better and because I think we are pretty great already in so many ways.  We can be the greatness we desire or we can be the disaster -- I chose to believe that what we see in times of trouble is the greatness that we can sustain.  I chose optimism not nationalism.  I chose to be patriot enough to be awed by these acts of kindness and demand more from our government to help it's people, because we are bits and pieces of the world and the world is watching.