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Really American,
Part II

Part I
Part III
Part IV

Natalia J. Garland

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September 11th remains fresh in my memory as an act of modern barbarism. It is three years later and I still fly my American flag. I never flew one before. Although I considered myself patriotic, or at least a good citizen, there were other countries where I felt I could have lived a satisfactory life. September 11th, however, made me really American. In order to cope with the incomprehensible, I had to re-assess my history and re-organize my worldview to absorb the impact of terrorism. The result is that I developed a more intimate and immediate spirituality, elevated patriotism to one of my highest values, and desired to be part of the effort to protect civilized society.

According to the figures in Part I of this essay, I live among the elite: educationally and financially. Living in America has afforded me opportunity and independence. Nevertheless, there is another component of American society, the work ethic, that also accounts for my status. I worked hard to achieve and maintain my standard of living, a standard which in my opinion is only modest and comfortable. I am not saying that others who have less do not also work hard. I am just emphasizing that I earned my way.

The American work ethic has both beneficial and distorted aspects. On the negative side, there was an exploitation of natural resources, the killing or displacement of indigenous peoples, and an acceptance of destructive character traits such as dominance and greed. On the positive side, the American work ethic promoted family survival through self-determination and self-sufficiency. We became a nation that believed in do-it-yourself or do-without. The work ethic promoted upward mobility which could not be so fully realized in other parts of the world. The ongoing immigration to America is a testament to the fact that the American Dream is globally recognized and desired by hardworking people.

Let's return to the figures in Part I of this essay. Regarding those who live in substandard housing, who cannot read, who lack food, who need healthcare, who need schools: generous Americans have been there to give aid. Some of the elite have a sense of responsibility that extends to all humanity. Some of the elite are appalled by America's distorted side but, rather than condemn and reject, we work for improvement. We strive to realize the American Dream for ourselves and to make that Dream viable for others. We do not withdraw our love of country. If people in other countries are living under substandard conditions, perhaps this is a result of management failures of their governments.

Yes, the concept of Manifest Destiny was open to abuses. But let us look at the undertaking of jihad's suicide bombers. The intention is to use oneself as a weapon to kill innocent others who are judged as infidels. The motivation is to gain an afterlife paradise for oneself. There is no contrast of dark and light sides to this. It is all oppressive with no glimmer of hope for equality, tolerance, or diversity. The individual means nothing. The victims of September 11th as well as the suicide hijackers were valued at zero. Violent jihad is not an alternative or solution to the complications and consequences of Manifest Destiny.

The brutality of terrorism has surpassed America's worst deeds. One does not justify the other. As we learn more about terrorism, we learn that the one actually has nothing to do with the other. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Hatred only requires excuses and an object to focus on. Affirmation of life requires loving care. Anti-Americanism is simplistic. Analysis of America is courageous.

To be really American has historically relied on the character trait of self-sacrifice. This is an interesting complimentary value to our individualism. So far, the impact of terrorism has not altered the lifestyle of average Americans. We still have everything we need for everyday life. There are no shortages. We have, however, lost lives in Iraq. We will never forget September 11th, and may we never forget our young men and women who sacrificed all. They were really Americans and their lives really counted. (Written 09/13/04: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2004 Natalia J. Garland