Barack Obama has been severely criticized for his association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright because of the Reverend’s damning criticism of this country. Both men have had their patriotism called into question because of the association and because of Rev. Wright’s criticism. It seems that amy negative comments, no matter how true, about this country are a mortal sin.
The question I want to address today is this: Is American so great that it is above criticsm? Is American so great that there is no room for improvement? Is American still the greatest country in the world, if it ever was?
In order to answer those questions we need to first decide what criteria do we use to determine greatness. Does military might define greatness? Does economic wealth determine greatness? Does international political influence define greatness? Is it a combination of these or is it something else altogether?
To me, the greatness of a country does not start with any of these three, although they do come into play ib secondary roles. The greatness of a country is measured first and foremost in its ability to secure and protect the rights and liberties of its citizens. That was the rationale for the founding of this country. “All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Do notice that happiness is not guaranteed – only the right to pursue happiness. No one ever promised us we would be always happy as Americans, only that we could pursue our own dream for happiness, as long as it did not infringe on someone else’s pursuit.
Unfortunately, happiness in this country has come to mean economic wealth, property. That’s why we have so many laws protecting property rights of some citizens – the “happiest ones” in economic terms. But those “happy people” and the government have, historically, had no problems trampling the property rights of others when it was in their “best” interests. Just imagine if the white colonists had respected the property rights of the Native Americans?
The protection of life is something that makes a country great. Yet, we have historically denied life to all kinds of people. The Africans brought over as slaves were denied control over their own lifes and the lives of their families. The women were often forced into having sex with their owners rather than their husbands. They had little choice in who ther husband would be. Love was rarely a factor in slave unions, and fidelity and loyalty to a spouse was frowned on and often punished. Children were sold off without any permission from their parents.
Yes, this was well over a hundred years ago, but, as Rev. Wright pointed out in his sermons, the scars are still there. Social scientists and social workers bemoan the lack of stability in African-American families. Well, given that history, it really should not be a surprise to anyone.
Many of our politicians mouth platitudes about ChristIn values and how we should follow the Ten Commandments. Yet, we still enforce the death penality, especially at the federal level. Do the Tem Commandments not say, “Thou shalt not kill?” Did Jesus not say, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?” How can we in God’s name as a supposedly Christian nation justify the death penalty with those two commandments from our God and our Savior? We can’t and that make us a nation that is hypocritical. Is that greatness? I think not.
I think we all need to remember that even if we believe America is the greatest country in the world, and that is a very debatable point these days, that does not mean it is perfect or that there is no room for improvement. I see a lot of things that need improvement, esprcially in the areas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Criticizing this country and demanding improvements that would take us closer to the ideals of our Founding Fathers are not unpatriotic. In fact, they are the ultimate patriotism. Blind acceptance of whatever the government says is right is unpatriotic. Had the Founding Fathers and all the patriots of the American Revolution blindly accepted the policies and abuses of the English government back then, there would be no free United States where people, at least on paper, were guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That guarantee is still not in force for all American citizens, and less so since the start of the Bush Administration. We need to reaffirm our commitment to the idea that all men, meaning all people irregardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, are equal in the eyes of God, and that they all are guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happibess. If we want to make America the greatest country in the world, we need to re-dedicate ourselves to putting those ideals into practice. That means making sure our government lives up to that commitment.
Remember, the American government is “of the people, by the people, for the people.” The government is not some deus ex machina that exists separate from the people it governs. The government exists to serve the needs and wishes of the people, not the other way around. Whether a politician personally approves or disapproves of the wishes of the people, he has a responsibility to carry out the wishes of the people. It is the responsibility of these politicians to see that the needs of the people are met to insure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all citizens, not just a select few. If they do not do these things, it is our responsibility to elect politicians that will.