Monday, April 22, 2013

In defense, sort of, of America

Holy cow, this blog thing is almost becoming a thing.

I have this tendency to play devil's advocate, likely because I was raised on debate (thank you Pappy) and because for me the mental exercise of debating, and in considering subjects from multiple viewpoints is truly enjoyable, like a game. The point is that I find myself arguing different sides of an issue depending on where other people fall, but ultimately, if I sit down and work out my positions, it usually falls somewhere in the middle of the two extremes (extremes which I'm sorry to say are increasingly becoming the uniformly held beliefs of the majority of Americans). This is my attempt to describe this process, and also endorse a certain worldview.

It has to do with whether America is a armor clad knight striding through the world cutting bullies down to size with a sword called Justice while sheltering the oppressed masses with a shield called Freedom, or a flame eyed demon which spread like a virus over the globe, feeding it's insatiable hunger with the riches, lives, and very souls of the poor people over which it holds sway. Because this is the dichotomy that seems to be presented as the two options, and many people seem inclined to agree with one or the other position fairly completely. Obviously there are shades, but most people seem clustered around one of those two positions, and I want to scream at everyone NO!

Here's a little twist in the argument.
America's influence on the globe is first and foremost......
Nope. Big

That's the main point, right there. America has HUGE gravity, and very large feet, where we step, we make big marks, and inevitably some people get trod on.

You know who practically nobody hates?
New Zealand
Know why?
Because Hobbits.
But also because New Zealand simply doesn't have a great deal of effect on the global scale, except in rugby. New Zealand didn't leave the Chechens hanging because New Zealand was never in the position to give the Chechens significant aid.

But America is a major player, and boy does it play. Sometimes well, sometimes not so well. On the balance, I'd say we've done pretty well long term, and kind of well short term, but to be fair, the game's gotten a lot harder.

So when people say things like "The terrorists hate us because we're free" or "because we're Christian and they want to destroy all religions aside from theirs" or similar I have to respond that in all likelihood the ones actually doing the fighting hate us because we've killed their friends and relatives, or because they know of people who have been killed and want to fight against the people who they believe (with some accuracy) WOULD kill their friends and relatives. The ones planning it will also have some of that drive, but will also see the damage the US has done, and while they too will be seeing an image skewed by their personal experience, desires, dogmas, and ignorance, they will nonetheless be acting in what they see as their own best interest, and the best interest of their people, perhaps all people. And it seems like I'm arguing that the terrorists are right, that America is evil and deserves to be destroyed, which is absolutely false, and is caused by this absurd notion that people have that "if you're not for us you're against us", the idea that if one takes issue with one side's argument, they must therefore be uniformly aligned with the direct opposite. So I will say this.

People who intentionally target individuals who are no direct threat to themselves(the targetters) or others (friends, co-workers, innocent bystanders if you can find any) are in the wrong. That is simple morality. The people responsible for the bombing of the Boston marathon may well have legitimate grievances with the United States Government, but they had NONE with the people who they attacked.

However, the USA has directly caused the deaths of far more civilians, far more children, women, old men, and unarmed workers or celebrants than it has suffered from terrorism in the years since 9/11, likely even including 9/11. There are differences, most of these deaths are caused by mistakes in response to the very real danger our soldiers faces in Iraq and Afghanistan. I do not believe the US government has a policy of intentionally attacking civilians, yet we cannot ignore the damage we cause, and we cannot ignore that this damage gives root to the movements which in turn attack us.

And then there's the OTHER flip side.
To all those liberals who would focus on the negative results of American actions. While it is certainly true there are major gaps in our foreign policy, we do a tremendous amount of good, both in the form of direct aid/action, and in the form of innovations and breakthroughs which improve or save the lives of millions each year. In the long view, America has been a major force in nurturing the spread of Democracy from it's earliest years, it has contributed tremendously to the advancement of mankind, performed stellar service in two world wars, helped rebuild Japan and South Korea (admittedly after thoroughly knocking the former down in the first place but still) and nurture Taiwan, all three of which became havens of democracy, freedom, innovation and economic development. We produced Norman Borlaug and thus the Green Revolution, which, however you feel about GMOs and Monsanto, did save literally a billion people, which is nice to have on the resume.

Essentially it comes down to this.
Since at least the end of WWII, and to some extent before, America has been the single greatest force on the world stage, we have been challenged, but never surpassed. This may change, but it is fairly true for the last 60+years. So the question then becomes, has the world moved in a positive direction in that time?
Personally, I say yes. We've gone that whole time without a world war, which considering we went just 21 years between the first and the second, and we've only become MORE interconnected since. Perhaps we can thank the nuke for that, but then, America get's to claim that too. Okay, so climate change is going to be a problem, and perhaps that's the clincher for some people, that we've not done well, but I'll take the challenges of today and the tools we have to fight them over the challenges of any decade pre-1950 no question.
If the world has improved in that time, then it's hard to say that America has been the evil empire, we could do better, we SHOULD do better, hell we CAN do better (I'm not confident we WILL, but I'm working on that), be we've not done half bad.

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