Shame

January 7th, 2021

Today I feel ashamed to be an American.

Yesterday’s violence and chaos in the Capitol makes me physically sick. How can I talk to any of my friends overseas, and not feel embarrassed? How can I talk to anybody, and not feel humiliated by the actions of some of my fellow citizens?

All my life I’ve watched people in this country wave our flag and puff out their chests, shouting, “America is number one!” In some ways that’s true. We have the largest military. We have the biggest economy. The United States is materially rich beyond the dreams of most of the world. We are world leaders with regards to technological advances. In almost every physical way, America is number one.

How do we rank morally?

Yesterday, the actions of our President, of his political acolytes, and of the MAGA mob, indicate that our country has a deep and pervasive rot in its collective soul. We have always prided ourselves on being a shining beacon of democracy, an example to emulated by other nations. We have believed in the myth of American exceptionalism, the notion that the United States is in some obscure way superior to all those “shithole” countries. We have assumed that we are inherently good people.

It is tempting for me to write it all off as nonsense. After all, our history is loaded with violence and hypocrisy. We have been at war with somebody almost continually since the birth of the United States. We enslaved Black people. We practiced genocide against the indigenous population. We claimed to follow God, when we actually worshiped the Almighty Dollar.

I grieve for my country. Both I and my eldest son served the United States in the Army. We both took an oath to fight for the Constitution, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I hesitate to call myself a patriot, but if I wasn’t, yesterday’s disaster wouldn’t hurt me so much.

Americans have done many positive things in world, despite everything. People around the world admire American virtues. They depend on us to provide a good example. They want us to be as good as we claim to be.

Yesterday we let them all down. We failed them.

We can be better than we were yesterday. We will be better. I know that. I believe that we really are good people.

I won’t feel ashamed for long.

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