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In Defense Of Hope

About a month ago, I had a conversation with a friend, one who has very different opinions on several subjects opposed to mine.

Great guy. Fun. Good father. But, very liberal.

He is open about his discontent toward many attributes inherent to the United States, its policys, both foreign and domestic, and his disdain for various traits that Americans possess.

He worships Obama, loathes Bush, and wishes death on the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

During this particular exchange, we discussed the differences between other countries and cultures as opposed to our own, with a concentration on the middle east.

While he claims to deplore terrorism, he "understands" what could lead someone to follow that path.

Citing poverty, living conditions, and cultural influences, he proceeded to say that we, as Americans, could never understand what these people have to endure on a daily basis. That they, out of necessity, need to live in a more "survivalist" mode, most times struggling for the lowest things on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Juxtaposing this against the United States, he proceeded to admonish our lifestyles, trumpeting the typical notion that we are "spoiled." Not appreciating how lucky we are to, if desired, have anything we want, living in a place where we don't need to just "survive."

I told him he was foolish for believing that Americans don't appreciate our lot in life. Certainly, our privilege of having been born here can be taken for granted, but, even people here can struggle to survive, as well.

Though the overall structure for us to succeed in a positive direction is there, it still takes willpower and hard work to succeed for what we hope to obtain and achieve.

America is a young nation. It was born of individuals who did have to struggle for the basic necessities of life. But they worked, recognized the importance of education, and progressed to a point where they felt they had no other recourse but to fight for not just basic physical needs, but for freedom from tyranny of other men, and a burning desire to choose for themselves how they could reach goals which were rooted in idealism, and not just need.

They didn't just want to survive, they wanted to live.

There are many regions, many countries and cultures, which have been around centuries longer than ours. Their progenitors had the same mental abilities to choose a path of progress, one rooted in the possibility to create a better environment so their children could be afforded better opportunities to progress as well-intentioned members of the human race, and not waste their gifts on hatred of those who were different.

This country, from its inception through the present, has been the only country to actually get it right. It has provided a template for other people, cultures, and nations, to follow, if desired. The birth of our country provided hard won proof and inspiration that existence did not have to be ruled by aristocratic iron hands, and that actions tempered with reason would produce an outcome of hope, equality, and collective success.

The mere fact that people, through centuries filled with possibilities, willfully chose to spend their energies fighting and pushing agendas consisting of warped ideology and religious hatred with nothing positive to show for it, continue to march on and blame others for their plight is incomprehensible.

Compared to the United States, and what trials and tribulations we and our ancestors have overcome, fought, and endured, gives credence to what noble intentions and acceptance of other's differences can accomplish.

We have become the most powerful source of hope this world has ever witnessed.

We have evolved from a society which based its entire existence on just eeking out a living, to one which can actually, if desired, improve emotionally, enabling ourselves to grow into complex individuals. We are not just human beings, but people.

I don't feel ashamed of my birthright. I don't feel as if I should harbor some self-inflicted guilt over the fact that I was blessed enough to be born in a place where I am able to concentrate more on my individuality and emotional health than others. Just as our fore-fathers could have chosen a path of hatred or the institution of a caste system, so too can the people of these countries, which focus their energies on fomenting conflict and hate.

For all of the problems we may have here, we are still the best country on Earth.

We should be proud of that fact, not ashamed.


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Comments (24)

Shawn, you'll note that the... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Shawn, you'll note that these liberals with their guilt trip NEVER VOLUNTEER TO MOVE TO SOME HELL HOLE TO EAK OUT AN EXISTENCE.

Ever met an optimistic or i... (Below threshold)
GianiD:

Ever met an optimistic or idealistic libbie?

Great guy. Fun. Go... (Below threshold)
Brett:
Great guy. Fun. Good father. But, very liberal. .... He worships Obama, loathes Bush, and wishes death on the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

I would question the "great guy" and "great father" bit. Anyone who wishes death on people for having an opinion you don't like is clearly, whether intentional or not, passing that on. This is a dangerous psychosis, not a legitimate political position.

Brett, my thoughts exactly.... (Below threshold)
Kentucky Colonel:

Brett, my thoughts exactly. To me, those same thought apply when I hear someone say that Obama is a nice person. Nice people don't try to demonize those who have different opinions.

GarandFan -Sometim... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

GarandFan -

Sometimes it seems like they'd rather drag the prosperous down than look at just why the prosperous are where they are and see how it might be pushed out to the rest of the world.

I recently ran across a book - The 5000 Year Leap - that's a worthwhile read on just why the United States flourished the way it did. Oddly enough, the best summation of the last 200+ years was from a 1-star review of the thing.

What WAS new was everything in the Constitution that had never been seen or tried before (including specific language FORBIDDING the United States from adopting ANY OFFICIAL RELIGION). What the Constitution set in motion was basically the English system of government, minus the aristocracy and the monarchy. Out went the King and the House of Lords, in came an elected President and Senate. These items, plus a guarantee of equal rights for all citizens, were quite definitely new items --- not entirely new (based on the British common law and parliamentary history) but certainly never tried before.

And the United States took off. Within two hundred years, we had a man walking on the Moon --- something else never seen before.
We've got something good going, and we seem to be able to self-correct the occasional excursion into foolishness without much trouble (IE Prohibition) after a major program delete and rewrite (IE slavery&segregation) - yet there's some who'd rather see the whole thing torn down (apparently believing something better will magically appear) than fine-tune and tweak what already exists to take care of perceived problems.

To them, "Equal Rights" means "Equal Outcome". To pretty much everyone else, "Equal Rights" means "Equal Opportunity" and "Equal Protection Under The Law".

You tell me which is more achieveable, and more important, and more likely to produce growth. Sometimes it seems like the left wants to re-establish the hereditary aristocracy and monarchy the English are saddled with - as exampled in "The Kennedy Seat" in the recent election. As Brown pointed out - it's the PEOPLE'S seat.

It's the PEOPLE that run this country - not an elected aristocracy, not a 'properly thinking ruling council', not fools who won't listen to their constituency.

It would be best to get back to that mode of government - where the elected officials respect (and somewhat fear) the people, instead of the people fearing the government.

RE: "While he claims to dep... (Below threshold)
kevino:

RE: "While he claims to deplore terrorism, he "understands" what could lead someone to follow that path. Citing poverty, living conditions, and cultural influences, he proceeded to say that we, as Americans, could never understand what these people have to endure on a daily basis. ..."

If your liberal friend believes that poverty is the root cause of terrorism, then he needs to get better informed. In study after study, including the thorough analysis done by the Kennedy School of Government, poverty had little to do with terrorism:

This article provides an empirical investigation of the determinants of terrorism at the country level. In contrast with the previous literature on this subject, which focuses on transnational terrorism only, I use a new measure of terrorism that encompasses both domestic and transnational terrorism. In line with the results of some recent studies, this article shows that terrorist risk is not significantly higher for poorer countries, once the effects of other country-specific characteristics such as the level of political freedom are taken into account. Political freedom is shown to explain terrorism, but it does so in a non-monotonic way: countries in some intermediate range of political freedom are shown to be more prone to terrorism than countries with high levels of political freedom or countries with highly authoritarian regimes.
When you get right down to ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

When you get right down to it, the libs/progressives want to RULE. THEY will determine who gets what. Barry's idea of redistribution ignores that sooner or later, EVERYONE will sit on their ass, waiting for Barry to TAKE from someone else and GIVE to them. As Thatcher noted, 'socialism works, until the rich run out of money'. Question for Barry: "Who you going to TAKE from then?"

I find it interesting that ... (Below threshold)

I find it interesting that the only two countries in the world that are loathed by so many are the only two countries that actually try to live by the ten commandments and follow an ideal, the United States and Israel.

Consider the responses of the United States and Israel which sent actual help to Haiti immediately as opposed to the European Union which called a press conference to promise 3 million euros (not yet received) and the Muslim oil rich states like Saudi Arabia which did not even bother to pledge. Britain sent 64 firemen and 8 volunteers.

Israel actually had a fully equipped field hospital up and running before the U.S. hospital pulled into Haiti. Israel actual was the one that set of the communications center that allowed Haiti to communicate with the rest of the world.

The U.N. pulled the doctors out of a hospital, along with most of the supplies, while Sanjay Gupta, the CNN correspondant, who is a neurosurgeon, stayed with his CNN crew to keep people alive.

The U.S. private charities had personnel and supplies ready to go before Haiti had any way to allow them to land.

Kevino -It doesn't... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Kevino -

It doesn't matter what's 'real' - what matters is how they 'feel'. If you 'feel' that poverty's the cause of terrorism, then it'll be almost impossible to be persuaded otherwise.

Ah, we're having such INTERESTING times, aren't we?

"While he claims to deplore... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"While he claims to deplore terrorism, he "understands" what could lead someone to follow that path.

Citing poverty, living conditions, and cultural influences, he proceeded to say that we, as Americans, could never understand what these people have to endure on a daily basis. That they, out of necessity, need to live in a more "survivalist" mode, most times struggling for the lowest things on Maslow's hierarchy of needs."

I'm sure this good father will understand when his kid's school gets wiped out Beslan style. Or his wife gets blown up on an airplane. "Oh, those poor others", he'll say, "We really can't expect THOSE people to be held to any civilized standard."

Those poor, poor terrorists with university degrees who come from millionaire families.

And yet other poverty-stricken societies don't use terrorism against the rest of the world. Gee, I wonder what common thing our terrorists have in common. What could it possibly be?

RE: "Juxtaposing this again... (Below threshold)
kevino:

RE: "Juxtaposing this against the United States, he proceeded to admonish our lifestyles, trumpeting the typical notion that we are 'spoiled.' Not appreciating how lucky we are to, if desired, have anything we want, living in a place where we don't need to just 'survive.'"

That explains your liberal friend's support for President Obama and the Democrats: their policies are going to bring ruin to the country.

I thought that liberals were just stupid. They don't understand the way that the world works, and they support policies that fail because they don't know any better and are incapable of learning. Now I get it. Some liberals want to systematically destroy our quality of life and turn the US into a Third World country so that we can be more humble and fit in better with the rest of the planet.

Heh.

You might want to remind your liberal friend of the downside of that idea. If the US turns into a banana republic with an economy like Zimbabwe, we won't be able to help anyone else. Next time a population tries break the bonds of mass tyranny and oppression, we won't be able to do a thing. The next time a huge earthquake flattens a country, there will be no US military (or UN with any capabilities) to help them. A lot of innocent people will just die.

And then, of course, there are the poor in the US, particularly in the inner cities. If the economy collapses and we have to scale back to basically a subsistence level economy, we may have a much reduced carbon footprint, but most of the nation's poor are going to suffer and die horribly without any hope for a better future.

This is an interesting post... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

This is an interesting post.

He is open about his discontent toward many attributes inherent to the United States, its policys, both foreign and domestic, and his disdain for various traits that Americans possess.

First of all, disagreement and discontent with the foreign policies of the US are a good thing. We should all be proud of the fact that we can disagree about these things without getting shot or dropped out of airplanes.

Second, there really are no "inherent" qualities or attributes of Americans. There are more than 300 million of us, and we run the gamut of ideas, opinions, and politics.

He worships Obama, loathes Bush, and wishes death on the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

Anyone who worships a political leader--whether Obama or Bush--is losing sight of how our political process is supposed to work. And anyone who wishes violence upon political opponents--whether liberal or conservative--is deplorable, IMO.

Citing poverty, living conditions, and cultural influences, he proceeded to say that we, as Americans, could never understand what these people have to endure on a daily basis. That they, out of necessity, need to live in a more "survivalist" mode, most times struggling for the lowest things on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

We probably can't fully comprehend the lives of many people who deal with vastly different social, political, and economic realities on a day to day basis. That's not really a very complicated point though. Do you really disagree?

Also, the argument that terrorism is simply the result of poverty is ridiculous. But then, people on the other side of the spectrum try to argue that terrorism is simply the direct result of Islam, which is also overly simplistic. It's important to consider not only political and historical factors, but ALSO individual choices and decisions. People should be held accountable for what they do, and simply claiming that terrorism is determined by poverty or religion starts to avoid any actual individual responsibility. There is no need to simply rationalize or explain away ANY form of terrorism. Terrorism is the result of specific individuals and organizations.

Juxtaposing this against the United States, he proceeded to admonish our lifestyles, trumpeting the typical notion that we are "spoiled." Not appreciating how lucky we are to, if desired, have anything we want, living in a place where we don't need to just "survive."

Again, this is a superficial argument. The US is composed of millions of people who occupy various social and economic strata--there are people at all class levels. There is no single way that Americans act or think--we certainly have our "spoiled" folks, and we certainly have people who deal with the grueling realities of poverty. Some Americans never have to worry about the basics, and many others do. Not really a new revelation there.

Though the overall structure for us to succeed in a positive direction is there, it still takes willpower and hard work to succeed for what we hope to obtain and achieve.

Here is where I think you get a little naive. Yes, people CAN improve their lot in life through will and hard work, but there is by no means a guarantee of that. And not everyone always adheres to the ideals and ethics of the US constitution. That's just how reality plays out. Sometimes you seem to sidestep the fact that political motives (among other things) can overshadow idealism. Despite our ideals about equality and freedom, not everyone gets a fair chance. That's life, I suppose. The big argument between liberals and conservatives seems to what to do about it--if anything. But then, any political system is always a work in progess. Yes, the US has achieved some pretty amazing things, but there is always room for improvement. No need to rest on our collective laurels.

America is a young nation. It was born of individuals who did have to struggle for the basic necessities of life. But they worked, recognized the importance of education, and progressed to a point where they felt they had no other recourse but to fight for not just basic physical needs, but for freedom from tyranny of other men, and a burning desire to choose for themselves how they could reach goals which were rooted in idealism, and not just need.

The US was born out of a lot more than work and education...it was also born out of war (revolution) and territorial expansion. It was born out of industrialization and massive economic growth. The US was born out of courage, yes, and avarice (like Polk's war with Mexico before the civil war). The US was born out of both idealism and contradiction (compare the Constitution's idealism with the treatment of slaves and Native Americans).

What I don't understand is why ANYONE feels the need to oversimplify our history--whether over eager leftists or overly romantic conservatives. American history isn't all pretty, and it isn't all ugly either. In fact, the US has inspired many countries across the world with our fight for independence and our notions of freedom and liberty.

But that does not mean that the US has always been the paragon of virtue. And I do not see any need to pretend otherwise. We done great things and we have done deplorable things. Hopefully we learn from our mistakes.

Compared to the United States, and what trials and tribulations we and our ancestors have overcome, fought, and endured, gives credence to what noble intentions and acceptance of other's differences can accomplish.

With all due respect Shawn, the US has not been all about noble intentions. Why ignore history? Yes, the US has accomplished some pretty amazing things, and yes there are many things to be proud of. At the same time, I see no need to sweep the rest of our history under the rug. US foreign policy has not always been about altruism. There is a difference between pursuing "national interests" and pursuing noble intentions. Sometimes there is overlap, sometimes there is not. I truly do not understand the need to simply ignore the more complicated histories of the US. I think it's pretty naive to do so.

We have become the most powerful source of hope this world has ever witnessed.

In some respects, yes. In others, not so much.

I don't feel ashamed of my birthright. I don't feel as if I should harbor some self-inflicted guilt over the fact that I was blessed enough to be born in a place where I am able to concentrate more on my individuality and emotional health than others.

Good. There is no reason to walk around with a bunch of guilt. I have run into far too many people who denounce the US and capitalism while taking full advantage of everything the US has to offer. Plenty of irony there, so I understand your point here. At the same time, there is no need to look the other way when it comes to aspects of the US that are less than ideal.

For all of the problems we may have here, we are still the best country on Earth.

Here is another thing I don't understand. What's with the need to claim that "we are the best"? I don't get it--this just comes across sounding pompous...and it seems unnecessary to me. I think Americans should be proud of who they are, but they should also realize that they are just another nation in the world. A little humility goes a long way.


Brett, I was going to make ... (Below threshold)
MjM:

Brett, I was going to make the same point (had CTRL-C'd Mallow's comments).

How anyone would can label this guy a "friend" and "good father" is beyond me. That he is, as you mentioned, passing the hate and brain-dead ignorance ("Citing poverty, living conditions, ...") on to his children are not the things that make up "Great Guy" status.

This so called "man" offers not the solution, but is the heart of the problem.

( btw, good luck today :) )

For a liberal to claim that... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

For a liberal to claim that Americans just don't appreciate how good they have it is such laughable nonsense. It is they who have made a career of complaining about what they do not have. No matter what they do have, it is never enough -- and God forbid that someone else should have more of something than they -- that really sends them into fits of apoplexy. What sanctimonious scumbags.

"About a month ago, I had a... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

"About a month ago, I had a conversation with a friend..."-sm

Slats Grobnik? Jeeves? Thomas Friedman's cabbie? Harvey?

"He worships Obama, loathes Bush, and wishes death on the likes of Rush Limbaugh."-sm

Parable at six o'clock! skip...

"I was blessed enough to be born in a place where I am able to concentrate more on my individuality and emotional health than others."-sm

"emotional health"?! God bless, I guess.

"Just as our fore-fathers could have chosen a path of hatred or the institution of a caste system, so too can the people of these countries, which focus their energies on fomenting conflict and hate."-sm

Our forefathers did indeed choose a caste system which, in contrast to virtually every like system, consigned all members and their offspring to slavery in perpetuity with (in contrast to other places and times) no chance of winning liberty through valiance or intellectual abilities or talents.

Our particular caste system reinforced itself diabolically by the so-called One Drop Rule.

Even by the Nazi Racial Law of 1938, the Jewish bloodline was deemed "cleansed" by the third generation after miscegenation or conversion.

Since there were free blacks and freedmen in the American colonies and USA, enslaved blacks must be considered a caste. And the most unlucky one in the history of the world.

Sometimes you can tell who ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Sometimes you can tell who is commenting before you see the name.
The extra dose of krazee gives it away every time.

Takes a lot of humility to ... (Below threshold)
klrtz1:

Takes a lot of humility to tell someone else they need to be more humble, doesn't it ryan a?

Personally, I think you're full of crap.

klrtz1:Ta... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

klrtz1:

Takes a lot of humility to tell someone else they need to be more humble, doesn't it ryan a?

Does it take even more humility to bring up the point that it takes a lot of humility to tell someone to be more humble?

We're all expressing our opinions, that's all. Relax.

Personally, I think you're full of crap.

Well, ok. What, exactly, do you disagree with?

Sometimes you can ... (Below threshold)
klrtz1:
Sometimes you can tell who is commenting before you see the name. The extra dose of krazee gives it away every time.


Good tip.

Thanks, Les.

klrtz1,One more ti... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

klrtz1,

One more time:

What exactly do you disagree with?

Writing "Personally I think you're full of crap" doesn't exactly add much to the discussion. It shows that you obviously disagree or take issue with something--but that's about it. If you have a disagreement on a specific point, why not say it?

ryan a is right. Our foundi... (Below threshold)

ryan a is right. Our founding fathers were much more practical and pragmatic than noble. Had they not been, we would NOT have a workable Constitution.

This is one of your better works, Shawn. I don't really disagree with any of it, just think that it could be fleshed out with better understanding of U.S. history.

HOPE the last thing pandora... (Below threshold)
Flu-Bird:

HOPE the last thing pandora released from the box

Donna B,"If you... (Below threshold)
Shawn:

Donna B,

"If you say that someone is a noble person, you admire and respect them because they are unselfish and morally good."

(That's from a description that popped up on a Google result.)

Being practical and pragmatic need not be the enemy of possessing noble traits.

I am a fanatic when it comes to the Revolution concerning the events and individuals which led to its inception.

When I speak of early American history, it is this time period of which I speak.

That stated, in full disclosure, I watched the series "John Adams." Though I appreciated the man prior to this, I became more fascinated by him after reading David McCullough's biography four times since.

The selflessness, inner-strength, and unrelenting determination of a man like Adams, who spent 16 years abroad fighting for a freedom and a system of government which existed only in the minds of a handful of visionaries, enduring mental and emotional hardships the likes of which I cannot possibly begin to relate, is an act of pure nobility.

Were there people who acted out of selfish pragmatic and practical impulses? Absolutely.

Concerning my "understanding" of U.S. History, I claim to be no exceptional scholar on the matter. However, writing a piece for a blog about a subject as complex and diversified as this requires a certain amount of brevity, so, please do not mistake that for a lack of understanding.

It is of my opinion that politicians operating in modern times possess no qualities which one can compare to those of the time period to which I refer.

And while there still existed levels of societal acceptance based upon one's standing in an "aristocratic" manner, the governmental structure used to reward such unmerited distinction was no longer accepted.


We are no doubt the best of... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

We are no doubt the best of the world or people would not be coming here in droves for the opportunity and freedom's we express let alone them fleeing cruel, poor countries. We do not come off as pompous but proud. Learn the difference. ww




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