I’m truly proud to be an American these last few days. It’s heartening to see my country finally stepping up and leading in an endeavor from which it can expect to gain nothing but the knowledge that it did the right thing — and the approval, at last, of the rest of the world. It’s been far too long.
For nearly two centuries we have been the tough kid on the block. We were blessed by having managed to steal a land, rich in resources, from the previous tenants. We made rapid use of those resources and our relative isolation from the powers in Europe and Asia to build a worldwide economic power alongside which the 1st Century power of Rome pales in comparison. We have pretty much told the rest of the world how things were going to be, and made it stick through the power of our money and, too often, by force of arms. Yes, yes, on a couple of occasions that was warranted by circumstances beyond our control, but even those wars were as much about economics as principle.
As Americans, we tend to forget that we are members of a global community, and that all we are depends on so many who preceded us. We owe who and what we are to other cultures, those that went before and those that attempt to coexist with us today. The currently much-maligned Arabs invented the zero, without which modern mathematics would not exist. Africa gave us the rhythms that melded with European influences and became jazz. The Far East gave us philosophical insights; the Native Americans — the true owners of this land — an understanding of how we fit into the big picture along with all God’s other creations.
And so it goes. Every culture, every religion, every idea is built on those that have gone before. We Americans are the sum of all those parts: the Arabs, the Yoruba — stolen from their homes and forced to find another way to be themselves — the Hindu mystic, the Ojibway shaman, the Druid in his grove.
We need to think about this carefully. We need to understand that we are not isolated here in the US; that we are very much a part of the world, and it of us, and that we have the ability to decide the course of history. That course will be predicated, in turn, on our ability to discern our true place in the scheme of things: not whether we can kick the asses of those who disagree with our policies, but whether we can influence them to not want to kick ours. The days of gunboat diplomacy are over. They ended with the development of that most guided of missiles, the suicide bomber.
It is time to take our place as leaders in the quest for peace, not in the art and appliances of war. When I see our powers diverted from that end to wage peace and compassion, as we are this week in Haiti, I have hope again.
If only we can remember that everyone hates a bully.