For whatever reason, perhaps because of age, I often think back to my youth and the image I had then of our country and its role as a nation of this world.
Most of that image was formed from my understanding of the history of our nation during the half-century before my birth: the time of my parents and grandparents. It was an image of growth fueled by immigrants and migration within America, technological advancement that helped feed the world, and our role within the world based a lot on our involvement in WWII and afterwards as we helped the nations we fought rebuild.
The image evolved as I came to understand our problems and difficulties, but that earlier image formed the bedrock of how I saw us as Americans: people who came to the aid of others. We weren’t perfect, but we were good.
It seems to me we’ve lost that view of ourselves. We’ve got caught up in political polarization and fear for our futures. While our young adults and children display more understanding and tolerance of others than my generation ever did, our country is more divided and fragmented than I ever remember. And from what I’ve learned from my experiences abroad a majority of the world views the US as a bully to be tolerated.
As a pragmatic idealist, let me offer a suggestion. Let’s get back to our role of helping others. We don’t have a finely defined need as was presented to what we now call ‘the greatest generation’, those of the generation that saw all of America sacrifice in one way or another during the early 1940s as the world faced its greatest crisis. We just have a lot of crises that are and will continue to affect everyone.
How about specifics? One very current problem is the Syrian refugee crisis. I know it’s rare, but the US has yet to be caught up in the blame game, which I think offers us a great opportunity. It’s not our problem, but we can help.
While my experience suggests that the majority of the world has a very negative view of US foreign policies, that same experience has shown that they admire the principles of our nation and are very open to learning about us. For me, the Syrian refugee crisis is an opportunity to show the world our greatness.
What can you do? At the least, please contact our Senators and Representatives and let them know that you believe that America is capable of being a major part of the solution to this problem. And if you are able, offer to help.
Maybe I’m lost in admiration for the elders that came before, but I’d imagine that the greatest generation would see the Syrian refugee crisis as something simple to solve.