Friday, July 24, 2020

A Different Way to See America


I listened to an an Ezra Klein Podcast the other day that made me think.

The speaker said this: (as close as I can remember, you can listen here):

Most Americans, including President Trump, talk about America as us. 
  • "We won two World Wars."* 
  • "We won the most Gold Medals at the Olympics." 
  • "We kicked the British out of the United States."
  • "We have the biggest economy."
  • "We set up a fantastic form of government."

But, when it comes to bad history we don't think "we" - we think they.
  • "They kept slavery alive for 150 years."
  • "They lynched thousands of blacks during Jim Crow"
  • "They took land from the Native Americans"

If we want to take the best of America, then we also have to commit ourselves - however personally blameless - fixing the worst of America. Sure, I never personally kept Black Americans down. I never personally interned Japaense-Americans. But then again, I never personally won a UCLA football game over the dreaded Trojans. I did not personally win any medals at the London Olympics.

This doesn't mean I have to rend garments and beat myself up over what happened years or decades or centuries before me. But, it does mean I should work to fix it.

You don't have to agree right this second, but think abut it. It is a different way of looking at the world.

Now, after you thought about it. Think about it from the viewpoint of Black Americans or Native Americans. For Black Americans:
  • "We helped win two World Wars - and then were segregated at home and discriminated against when getting a job."
  • "We won the most Gold Medals at the Olympics - and then were sent home in segregated ships (olden days) or received millions of dollars less in endorsements (current days)."
  • "We kicked the British out of the United States - and then, after fighting the British, were kept in slavery."
  • "We set up a fantastic form of government - where a slave was counted as 3/5s of a human being."
I get annoyed when a waiter doesn't wait on tables in the order the tables were sat. Image an entire life of this.

Anyway, I am not suggesting any fix. just a different way of thinking about things.


*Yes I know "we" didn't win either one by ourselves. And yes I know that "we" were very late to both parties, but, Gareth, I am looking at this through the eyes of Amerians.

2 comments:

  1. Very thought provoking! Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, yes and yes. I personally think this country should try and beat itself up a little over our horrendous track record. You know, make amends and acknowledge the harm we've caused but I doubt many Americans are willing to walk down that road with me.

    ReplyDelete

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