Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!
The view of the United States of America has become deeply distorted in the world today on many different levels by many different people.
It only took me a matter of mere seconds to find this image on Google images when typing in the word “America.” And it was exactly the picture I was looking for even though I’ve never seen it before in my life. So how did I know I was looking for it?
American Flag? Check.
Bald Eagle? Check.
And the newly added symbol, the Twin Towers? Check!
It’s official. This picture is as American as it gets. Perhaps a little apple pie should be steaming on a window-ledge in the bottom right hand corner… no, maybe thats too much, yea this picture is perfect. Indeed this image is supposed to fill you with only one feeling: Pride.
The pride this image is intending to instill is supposed to be blinding or even intoxicating. It’s supposed to be a symbol of reminder on what America’s all about: Freedom. Freedom is such an abstract concept that it is actually impossible to define unless you put it to a situation. Freedom by itself simply means “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action” (m-w.com) in its most abstract form. And of course the buzzword for the 21st Century is terrorism. America means freedom from terrorism… hence the new World Trade Center symbol. In fact this image can be easily categorized in another category: propaganda.
Propaganda is “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person” (m-w.com) and most certainly these symbols have “ideas” behind them and they are meant to “help” the “institution” of the United States. The American flag and bald eagle are incessantly paraded about to show true dedication to the American cause. The addition of the World Trade Center is to show how the American cause is a moral cause, a cause to fight terrorism. And in reality, is there anything that is more reviled than terrorists? Not really. Their whole purpose is to cause terror, a word that has a deep meaning in our language, it is a word reserved for one of the strongest manifestations of fear.
But it’s essential to look at America through the perspective of an adult. Images like the one above are misleading, they’re meant to play with your emotions and not evoke your reason and logic. In fact if you see bald eagles, American flags, and WTC pictures somewhere often there is a large chance that the organization, person, or group that uses them are trying to be manipulative because they have little contextual meaning outside of pride (WTC excluded) which is certainly nothing we should be making serious and logical decisions based upon.
The reason why I say WTC excluded is because the Twin Towers have a very separate meaning. For some it is a tragedy, for others it’s a call for retribution. In fact the World Trade Center has meant a sea change in mentality of the United States. Many feel as if America was living in a dream world before the September 11th attacks, and now it’s time to wake up. Enemies of “freedom” are out to get us and we now have to commit ourselves to fighting the evils of this world. But once again, propaganda pictures are not the best way to make logical decisions. Looking at situations individually and critically will certainly yield more fruits to end terrorism than sheer compliance to US authority. Many don’t see it that way.
So let’s get down to logic! What is the United States of America all about? The picture to the right is not propaganda though I’m sure it certainly could be used for that reason. It is supposed to depict the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The United States of America was founded on revolution. Not many countries can say that about their history. And it is most likely the reason why the United States feels it has a moral responsibility to get rid of evil. England was unfairly siphoning wealth off of those who were already dissatisfied with the country which is why they moved to the “New World” in the first place. Tired of religious persecution and following the whims of a single ruler, these revolutionaries understood just because they had different viewpoints it didn’t make them bad people, they decided to stand up to a tyrant… and won. The story of David and Goliath became historical fact. Americans certainly pride themselves on this freedom from persecution. England was like a top-heavy bureaucracy depending on the hard work of their colonies to take care of their glut, the Americans said no and to this day, over 200 years later, Americans still enjoy our independence from England.
Now free from a tyrant’s rule the men of this revolution decided to draw philosophy from the Enlightenment, specifically John Locke, on how to make sure they could create a country not ruled by tyrants. You see, they realized something extremely profound that most governments have refused to acknowledge even at its most base level… what they realized (to some extent) is that people are individuals who didn’t ask to be born under a set of rules that were not created by them… and that in order for the most coherent rules to stay in tact it was important that citizens had rights, that people in positions of power could be checked and balanced by people in positions in other powers. This is where the reasoning behind the Executive Branch, Judicial Branch, and the Legislative Branch comes in. This way nobody could hijack the country as the King of England hijacked theirs. They believed that they shouldn’t have to pay for taxes on necessities and if a person is just trying to survive and go about their business they shouldn’t be bothered by the government. They believed that a federal government should play a minimal role in your life as opposed to an inflexible demander even though they never even met you or knew your situation. They felt that States should have more authority… this is because States are more local, they have a much smaller area to govern, this would allow for different cultures to flourish and more attention could be spent on individuals. It was a government created so people could live like people… for their own purposes… and not just the pawn of an untouchable ruler. They even believed there should be a level of local government, in towns, where people even decided even more unique rules so that people could harness as much control over their own lives as possible without oppressing the lives of others.
The concept behind this was liberty. Inalienable rights that go along with a human simply for being born on this Earth. This was supposed to keep rulers in check of abusing a human. So everyone got their wigs back on and wrote up the Constitution which contained the Bill of Rights as well.
And it was a success! For as young as the United States is it arguably has the oldest surviving Constitution on this planet. The success of this is because of how broadly fair it is at recognizing peoples differences. It attempts to remind everyone that they are just as human as the next guy and the one with the more reasoned argument shouldn’t be dismissed or oppressed just for having a different (possibly helpful) viewpoint. Inevitably it was this document that was used to give women and black people rights. The United States of America prided its liberty so much that a giant copper statue, the likes of which is rarely built these days, was made by the French to honor America’s honest justice. Certainly there is no mistaking on what the United States did to pull the West once and for all away from the monarchy rule created in the dark ages. There is no questioning the fact that the United States made many positive contributions to the world as well as many positive people.
However, of course, the United States has not been perfect to everyone. Though that document helped free the slaves and give women rights, it didn’t do so right at the onset. And there is nothing wrong with saying that was inappropriate for the United States. No country has a perfect history, all countries have a dark past somewhere. And while America slowly spread the idea of humane treatment abroad, it still oppressed Native Americans creating a virtual genocide of a multitude of races, cultures and tribes by tricking, disabling, or killing them as the United States filled its manifest destiny. And whether you agree with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or not they were still cities of average citizens, no more guilty of political tension than those who worked in the Twin Towers.
But those were not collective decisions that were embraced by all. There is no doubt in my mind that there were many attempts to use violence, force, or submission in the United States history, but at the exact same time each individual made their own decision and that does not mean other people should have to be held accountable for it, especially if they had nothing to do with it. It is our job as current citizens, instead, to condemn such actions, work towards making sure similar situations don’t occur again, no matter what side of the argument you’re on.
What is equally as important is that we don’t embrace our negative actions. Slavery, for example, is a negative action. Viewing another individual as lower than you simply for no other reason than noticing a physical difference about that person is something against our morally adept Constitution. Indeed at the time these men were writing it they did not realize that even those prejudices that were socially acceptable eventually came to light and allowed injustices to be broken down… even the ones they upheld at the time. This is what makes the United States Constitution amazing, it applies to all injustices.
And so state after state came in to existence (though on the blood and oppression of the Natives) creating at least 50 micro-cultures inside of the single country (arguably many more). New York simply did not view the way a state should be run the same way as Alabama which also contrasted with the way Texas viewed it while that contrasted the way Oregon viewed it, which contrasted with the way Hawaii viewed it… and so on. The success of this was the ability for people with different viewpoints to have a say in the way they wanted to be treated. The federal government wasn’t the sole ruler like a King or Queen, there were a great many checks and balances within the federal government and within the states themselves.
However sometimes the federal government had to get involved. Some private companies like the railroad were manipulating people in the very same oppressive way that the country had fought to eliminate. Monopolies sprouted up here and there only for the federal government to knock them down and force fair competition. And it can’t be overlooked that the United States worked on very successful social programs that were administered at the federal level. It was proven that the federal government had the ability to consolidate things yet still allow people maximum freedom.
There’s that word again. Freedom. In this case it’s used to allow people maximum liberties without oppression. And that’s not always easy because if you allow one person to do one thing you are sometimes (in fact many times) not allowing another person to do something. This is sometimes easily justifiable: Man claims property through government, government approved man of claiming property, man builds house on property, and another man, now seeing the value in the property with a house already on it, wants it instead… it’s pretty cut and dry. Man B can not live off the fruits of Man A’s work while ousting him especially with no compensation, not even if Man B is the President of the United States of America.
So it’s at least arguable that the federal government made some beneficial moves in times of need that didn’t necessarily restrict liberties. Social Security, a means of pulling the United States out of the depression, was one such social program. Many people had benefited from a federally implemented program and while it was used as a form of identification, it was only for financial purposes only. In fact before the program became very controversial it was even specified that while it was used for things such as taxes that “It shall be unlawful for any Federal, State or local government agency to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual’s refusal to disclose his social security account number.”
It is interesting to note that currently there is an Act working its way through the federal government that will change the laws to force people to carry a federal identification card at all times in which they can deny you of any “right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual’s refusal to disclose” his federal identification card.
More propaganda. This time from WWII. A complicated series of wars, the two world wars and the tension created around them lasted decades. However the United States clearly stepped in, with its moral fervor, to eliminate genocide of the Jews and to stop the unification of Europe under a spiteful Nazi Germany. It is clear that Nazi Germany was very much against personal liberties as they did not see the Jews (or anyone but the German people for that matter) as equal to themselves. In a hubris you will only see with a group that has failed to contemplate the purpose of humanity Nazi Germany violently shook the world and the United States and its allies shook it back devastating family after family after family after family…
Did the Americans put Japanese in holding centers? Sadly yes, but many argue the point that genocide was not on their mind when this happened. However no German-Americans were put in to the same camps. Did the United States unleash to the world nuclear war? Yes again. The cost of not doing it, of course, could’ve been weeks, months, or years more fighting the stalwart Japanese military island after island. It is in fact hard to not resort to actions that cause torture, pain, death, and oppression (the very things the United States is supposed to be against). The reason for this is because people generally want to feel safe and in control. When a person does not feel safe and they do not feel in control it is hardly different than riding tied up and bound in a passenger seat of a speeding car driven by a crazed maniac… anything to stop him… it’s your life at stake here. At all costs, when one feels threatened for their or their families very lives, they are willing to create the most morbid of atrocities. War zones are no different than Satanic haunted rituals celebrating suffering, pain, torture, mutilation, desperation, despair, terror, pungent odors, numbness, and death… rituals with no compassion. Perhaps this potential-loss-of-control feeling is how the United States felt when they bombed Japan or interned Japanese-American citizens. Perhaps its how the German’s felt when they were stuck with the bill for WWI. Perhaps this is how the terrorists felt on September 11th… is it that unfeasible?
The success of the United States can hardly be contested by anyone. In fact it became so successful it was able to introduce the idea of globalization: the world as a free market, the unification of medicinal practices, political standards, and human rights. Whether you agree with this idea or not it is because of the United States becoming a global powerhouse that has the USA in a lot of involvements all around the world, not just at home anymore. Metropolises spread across the country, corporations with more income than most countries arose from within, celebrity status was taken to a whole new level in the USA with the advent of Hollywood. Things became so successful that in order for things to be easier to deal with the states lost a lot of their original power to the federal government for implementation of more government programs. Not just millions, not just billions, but yes – trillions were being tossed around because of the voracious American economy. Many around the world originally embraced it and longed to be in a country that was so prosperous, some hotly despised it, some were indifferent to it.
And now we reach present day. Did the United States, so loved and revered by many in its value of liberty, create something bad or good with the idea of globalization that it supports and helped create? For now it’s a rhetorical question but it will be a question to ponder indeed. Some see globalization as a shackle to the world while others see it as people helping people. The United States sits literally as the headquarters of the idea. Does globalization have anything to do with terrorists? Are terrorists against the freedom of liberties or the freedom of globalization? What’s the difference? What American ideals does the United States value today? Is it the direction the founding fathers expected us to go in? Is it the direction the Constitution expects us to go in (arguably the oldest constitution in the world)?
These questions will be addressed and propaganda like both of the globalization pictures (left and right) will only be used for analytical purposes here. On this site we’ll help define what that vague word freedom really is to both the United States and abroad, and whose getting what definition of it. Understandably this isn’t the most exciting entry but trying to understand and help the world needs an inner drive. And as always if you have any opinions of yours you wish to share on this or any other entry I’d love to have it. It may even make me edit or correct some things.