I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be an American lately, especially since today is our Independence Day. I read an article from RELEVANT Magazine titled, "America, the Arrogant?" and it really got me thinking. (If you haven't read the article, I do recommend reading it, they have a lot of good points.) I don't agree with everything in the article, as I always say about RELEVANT's stuff, but the basic jist I agree with.
I have found with many foreigners that we are America, the Arrogant. I have traveled abroad for the past two years and spent a considerable amount of time in these foreign countries--enough to know that America is not perfect. I have also spent enough time talking to other people to know that America isn't that highly
viewed in the eyes of the world. Here are some descriptors of Americans in the eyes of foreigners. Americans are:
Have I said enough?
Understand, not everyone feels this way about Americans. In fact, most people I have met overseas love Americans, because the Americans buy their products and give them money. They don't care how Americans act as long as they are paying. Let's face it guys, we are one of the richest nations in the world. Even our poorest people, the ones who complain about not having a car or not being able to buy a TV or have internet are still way richer than a good portion of the world. The poorest people over here in America are still way richer than the poorest people in other countries. Let's respect that and honor that, not rub it in
The analogy used in the RELEVANT article said:
My guess is you’d end up emotionally drained and tire of their company rather quickly. You’d probably avoid eye contact when retrieving your mail, stay indoors when they were out cutting their lawn and conveniently lose the invitations to their annual barbeque. Is it any wonder, then, that when Americans express the same sentiments we find our global neighbors running the other way?"
Sadly, this is the undertone of many Americans. I have seen this when I go overseas and go to a tourist site or a restaurant.Some Americans will demand certain things, rather than be grateful for what they have been given. They will ask for their orders to be special made and then get offended when the chef doesn't get it right. They will argue with the waiter and refuse to pay because they messed up the food. All of these actions scream of entitlement and selfishness.
Not all Americans are this way at all. In fact, a good portion of them are so kind and welcoming and sensitive to the culture. I think that is the biggest difference: some Americans are "me" focused and not "others" focused. The "others" focused Americans don't demand the other culture cater to them, but rather mold to the culture and realize that everyone is human and just lives a different lifestyle. Rather than saying, "Oh my gosh! This guy has no respect for me! He just keeps touching me and coming into my personal space! And he smells! This is so gross!" the person would understand that the culture has no personal bubble, deodorant isn't a priority, and closeness is the way a person expression friendship.
Sometimes, rather than being grateful for what we have, we chalk it all up the the "fact" that God loves us more than everyone else when that simply isn't the case. There are tons of other countries out there that are just as good as the United States. Granted, they are different, but they are not worse. I have found that most people who make this claim haven't really lived for an extended period of time in another culture and really deeply experienced their culture.
It is all about values. We value freedom, because we think it is the best thing in the world. Other cultures value other things, like community or heritage. Yet it is very arrogant of us to make the claim that everyone wants freedom. So, in some cultures, they don't have the freedoms we do, but that is okay. They do not value the freedoms as much as we do. If they did, there would be a rebellion such as the ones we saw in Egypt. We should not be placing our value system onto the values of others and expect them to simply agree and then bash them and claim we are better when they don't.
After visiting other cultures, some people come back to America so grateful for what they have and vow to never take advantages of their blessing again. Other people come back and realize that America isn't all that it is cracked up to be, but it is one of the better options out there in the world.
I, for one, do love my freedom. I love the independence and liberty that the United States gives. That is why I support this country and continue to live in this country. My values line up with that of the nation, and I choose of my own free will to support this nation--even to the sense of fighting for it if I must. I do pledge my allegiance to my country, and I do not see a problem with it or feel that it conflicts with my beliefs. I pledge allegiance to my future wife and to my future family. I believe that the values in this country are worth fighting for, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I have to be here. It took me traveling to another country to fully understand this.
So today, I am asking you to join me in transforming this day into a day of remembrance, contemplation, and thanksgiving for being in such a wonderful country. Let's pray to never take advantage of this nation and the freedoms we have here.Let us not brag about how amazing our nation is and further isolate ourselves. Let us not think that God only loves and blesses Americas, but loves all equally. Let's pray for other countries and peoples and not compare ourselves to them. Let us remember that God loves all equally, and "gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." (Matthew 5:45b)
Let us remember this verse and keep it at the heart of our nation and on our minds all today:
"Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us." (Romans 12:3 NLT)
Following his call,