Sunday, February 14, 2010
Lost in Bubbles
Maybe it was the narcotic haze. (Just a little bit of codeine overload as I continue to battle pneumonia.) Or perhaps it was the conversations I've had with my daughters lately. They are both up to their eyeballs in community organizing, activity, and what Macalester College refers to as Civic Engagement. Or else it was just historical amnesia. But I wrote yesterday that I don't feel apologetic about being an American. Let me clarify that. For the record, an important record. And thanks to old friend, Mike Voigt, for catching me up short. To be honest, it is such a relief to feel good about being an American again, in many ways (not all!, that I got carried away. But just a few reminders of who else we are. El Salvador. Chile. Nicaragua. Mexico. Panama. And, god bless us all, Granada! And that's before we move on to the present moment. Irag. Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia. Shall I go on? Yes. Slavery. I can apologize as long as the day lasts. Blood on our hands. Sleazy, greedy, creepy foreign policies and domestic failures. Cynical urban policies. Corruption. Petty politics. And that's before we come to the hedge funds and disastrous behaviors of the financial sector that, as it turns out, reading today's NYT's, has screwed Greece too. (With ample participation of the Greeks.) So yes, you get lots of hand-wringing, regret, embarrassment, and anger from me. Cynicism, frustration, disgust. But. As noted above, I've been paying a lot of attention to my kids. And to the communities around me. And I'm impressed. Caveat: it seems I spend a lot of my time in Poland being reminded of all that is wrong with America. We're big. We're imperious. We're cocky. We've screwed up the world's financial sector. We're racist. And that has got my back up. So I like to remember, as well, the ways our parents take an active role in their kids' education, the remarkable quality of arts and music programs, the teen-agers who spend hours sitting on town Planning and Zoning Commissions (ask Annika) representing the wisdom of a new generation. The levels of civic engagement in everything from education and health care and sports programs. Volunteer hours. I venture to assert that we probably spend more volunteer hours per capita than almost any other nation on earth. We do share our wealth, if not in the ways I'd like, in terms of economic adjustments, at least in donating and giving. So. Not to be too defensive here. But that's what I was thinking last night as I watched our delegation come in, and reflected on who we are. We are a really mixed bag. Really mixed bag. And the same ones of us who do great things also do terrible things. We are, at the same time, saints -- so to speak -- and sinners. Good and bad. I was lost in bubbles last night, grateful for all that is right. But we dare not forget the rest. And learn. And repent. And change. Yeah, change.