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How We See Ourselves

January 5, 2010

I often wonder which is more important, how I see myself, or how others see me.  It is something most of us do at some point.  At first glance it seems an easy answer but the more you think on it the answer becomes trapped in a cycle of circular motion.  The same goes for nations and national pride.  Is it more important for us, Americans, to have a positive image of ourselves or for others to have a positive image of us?  Regardless of which way you happen to think, the answer can be both right and wrong at the same time.

Living through events like the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, it was easy to become cynical about our national identity.  So much so that by the time we elected Ronald Regan as President we were amazed he even spoke of things like being proud.  We needed that.  Whether or not you agree with his politics, President Regan resorted a since of pride to the nation.  For the first time in a decade we saw ourselves positively.  It is almost as if he gave us permission more than any policy enacted.

At the same time though, much of the rest of the world saw us less favorably.  It is understandable if we look at it honestly.  We meddled in the affairs of other countries, toppled elected governments, and supported brutal dictators when we needed something from them.  The cumulative effect of one hundred years of a heavy-handed foreign policy undermined the good will the American people.  While we see ourselves separately from the government, other nations see us as one.

With that in mind, the true answer is in the middle someplace.  It is just as important for us to see our nation positively as it is for others to see us positively.  The question then becomes how.  First we have to be consistent.  We cannot support one dictator we like while opposing one we don’t.  For example in Saudi Arabia, we support an oppressive regime that denies its people freedom while we oppose another oppressive regime, Iran that acts pretty much the same to its people.  It’s true for how we deal with communists countries like Cuba and China too.  It is hypocritical to say the least, to point out human rights abuses in Cuba while turning a blind eye to the ones in China.

The effects of all this are of great consequence to us.  If we do not have national pride, we become disinterested and special interests find it easy to control things as they see fit.  One only has to look around today to see that is true.  On the other hand, if others see us negatively overseas, we will have more nut-jobs coming here to blow things up.  We have replaced true pride in America and its freedoms with pride in Americans that think the same as us, be that liberal or conservative.  The truth is neither the Democratic nor the Republican party are as important as America.  It’s time we have pride in America rather than Americans described as “true.”

When we guide our actions by what is best for us as a nation, rather than what is best for a political party, we will do what is best for other nations too.  In the end, to do what is best for others is our best interest.  If we do just that, we will find it unnecessary to take unilateral actions that make us the bad guy everywhere but here.  We will still have groups that hate us but no right thinking nation will give them credence.

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