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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Being an American in today's world

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I am an American. Those are proud words though they once held much more pride across other nations than they do today. But those words still speak volumes to the millions of faceless and nameless world citizens whose lives are better today because America came to their rescue in one form or another.

I don't mean any harm to any world citizen. In return, I ask only the same. I don't agree with a wide range of issues and actions taken around the globe but as long as those actions don't impact my country, I respect others' cultures and their freedoms to live their lives as they see fit.

I feel great sorrow for the millions of lives lost each year in Africa because of tribal warfare, poverty and ignorance. And I know my country provides billions of dollars to the African countries to help lift them into the 21st century. Could we or should we do even more? I think not. And here's why: Not all Americans equally enjoy the rewards of success and, until that day arrives, I think we first have an obligation to help our own.

I am somewhat embarrassed that I cannot fully explain why the Mideast is constantly at war. I cannot fully explain why murder in the name of religion seems so utterly absurd. And as an American, I know we have some obligation or responsibility to help those lands find some solution that will allow them to live in peace. I know this because my heart tells me so. If I listened to my head, I might think otherwise.

I am an American. And as such, I have come to appreciate our special place on this great earth. But increasingly, I have seen how our efforts are going without appreciation from the very ones we seek to help.

I so wish I could speak one-on-one with some counterpart in some other country, look them in the eyes and tell them that America wants only the best for them. I would ask that they want only the best for us. I'm tired of my "leaders" speaking for me and telling the world how I think. I want to truly understand what compels some kid in some distant land to strap on a bomb and sacrifice his life simply to take the life of some other kid who wears the uniform of an American soldier. Have we become that evil in the eyes of the world? And if so, how do we change?

We're hearing volumes about "change" these days as our country - without violence - decides the enormously important question of new leadership. But "change" is such a subjective notion. Every election in this country is marked by change. So change we will get. But at what price and in what direction? So many Americans fail to think beyond the rhetoric.

Maybe it's not that we need change, maybe we just need a renewed dedication and resolve to improve our great land with the tools already available. We don't need to change our direction toward illegal immigration. We need to use the laws currently in force and resolve to enforce those laws. Maybe we don't need to change our policies toward other countries but instead, demand that we get something in return. That is not asking too much.

I don't always agree with the decisions made in the name of America. But I still have the freedom to express my objections without fear that someone will come quietly in the night and remove my voice of dissent. I would hope and pray the same could or will someday be said about other nations. But I know I will never live long enough to see that become a reality.

Yes, I am an American. But I strongly suspect I am not the image of America as viewed by millions of others across the world. Were I as selfish as some portray us, I would object to every single dollar leaving this country to help others in need. Were I as ruthless as some view this country, I would demand total annihilation for those with whom we disagree. I believe we have the military capabilities to do just that. Were I as arrogant as we are often portrayed around the world, I would ignore the poverty, the hunger and the health issues of anyone outside our borders. But history clearly shows that is not our character.

As an American, I am becoming increasingly sick of others who seek political gain at our expense. I am also becoming increasingly sick of our "leaders" who pretend to speak for all Americans when in fact, they speak for a limited few.

There are those who firmly believe the glory days of this great nation are numbered. They calculate that our arrogance, our selfishness and our excesses have grown so large that this country will someday soon fall the way of other great cultures of the past. They are wrong. And they are wrong because they misunderstand the true Americans who get up every day to improve their lot in life, who make countless sacrifices large and small, who pray for others who would never pray for us and who remain faithful to the foundations of this great nation.

And finally, as an American, I am truly and deeply concerned that no one currently on the national stage of leadership is capable of defending this nation. Not defending us from a military standpoint but from the attacks on our character, our generosity and our compassion for others. We can and should stand tall as Americans. And we deserve a leader who with words and actions will tell the world that the stakes are far too high and our commitment far too strong to threaten this sleeping giant. I have yet to find that leader.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen