Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Fourth

Hello any American neighbor and friend who drops by this blog on or near The Fourth of July. I wish you a wonderful day of celebrating your wonderful and great country. As I have said before, in Bean American for example, I don't think that I've ever met an America whom I haven't liked. You are a warm, friendly, and generous people — salt of the earth, as it were.

When I thought of greeting you today, I recalled a radio broadcast that I once heard. Gordon Sinclair paid the following tribute to your country at a time when things seemingly could have been going better for you. I was shocked to learn, when I found the speech online that it first aired way back in 1973. Seems like just yesterday that I first heard it, but I guess all of the old fogies say that.

The United States dollar took another pounding on German, French and British exchanges this morning, hitting the lowest point ever known in West Germany. It has declined there by 41% since 1971 and this Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least-appreciated people in all the earth.

As long as sixty years ago, when I first started to read newspapers, I read of floods on the Yellow River and the Yangtze. Who rushed in with men and money to help? The Americans did.

They have helped control floods on the Nile, the Amazon, the Ganges and the Niger. Today, the rich bottom land of the Misssissippi is under water and no foreign land has sent a dollar to help. Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy, were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of those countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.

When the franc was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris. I was there. I saw it.

When distant cities are hit by earthquakes, it is the United States that hurries into help... Managua Nicaragua is one of the most recent examples. So far this spring, 59 American communities have been flattened by tornadoes. Nobody has helped.

The Marshall Plan .. the Truman Policy .. all pumped billions upon billions of dollars into discouraged countries. Now, newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent war-mongering Americans.

I'd like to see one of those countries that is gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar build its own airplanes.

Come on... let's hear it! Does any other country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing Jumbo Jet, the Lockheed Tristar or the Douglas 107? If so, why don't they fly them? Why do all international lines except Russia fly American planes? Why does no other land on earth even consider putting a man or women on the moon?

You talk about Japanese technocracy and you get radios. You talk about German technocracy and you get automobiles. You talk about American technocracy and you find men on the moon, not once, but several times ... and safely home again. You talk about scandals and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everyone to look at. Even the draft dodgers are not pursued and hounded. They are here on our streets, most of them ... unless they are breaking Canadian laws .. are getting American dollars from Ma and Pa at home to spend here.

When the Americans get out of this bind ... as they will... who could blame them if they said 'the hell with the rest of the world'. Let someone else buy the Israel bonds, Let someone else build or repair foreign dams or design foreign buildings that won't shake apart in earthquakes.

When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them. When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose. Both are still broke. I can name to you 5,000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble.

Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don't think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake.

Our neighbours have faced it alone and I am one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their nose at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles.

I hope Canada is not one of these. But there are many smug, self-righteous Canadians. And finally, the American Red Cross was told at its 48th Annual meeting in New Orleans this morning that it was broke.

This year's disasters .. with the year less than half-over… has taken it all and nobody...but nobody... has helped.



blue2go said...

I remember hearing that or at least hearing it quoted. It's just such NICE things to say about US that it brings tears to my eyes. Thanks! It's so NICE of you to remember and post it today on our nation's birthday! (We Minnesotans love the word "nice" BTW!)

swamp4me said...

Thanks, AC.

Christi said...

I've heard that before somewhere. I like it. Thanks for posting it. Makes me feel kinda good to be an American. Kinda sad that it's the truth, but...

Lora said...

Thank You, Anvilcloud!

Reading that brought tears to my eyes. As an American I often feel ashamed of our nation's tendancy to get involved where we don't belong, like the Iraq, but it's very nice to have the flip side of this pointed.

Thank you for posting it.

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

Wow, Anvilcloud. After writing a fairly anti-American note on my own blog today, I surf over here to your appreciation of us folks. Food for thought.

I appreciate your enthusiasm and support for us Americans, but also remind you that there is much more to the story than this.

Our country is founded on the exploitation and slaughter of millions of Native Americans. We have exploited migrant labor since our inception, migrants who built our roads, bridges, skyscrapers and railroads. Now those individuals grow our food, clean our houses and do all of the menial labor that we are too good for.

Our country has instigated coups and civil wars, divided peoples of many countries against one another, undermined true democracies, and stuck its nose in many unwanted places, Iraq included. We created the seedbeds for mass slaughter and unrest in many Central American counries, installed CIA-backed dictators, and silently colluded with drug lords in Columbia and Afghanistan. We were best friends with Saddam Hussein for many years, selling him the chemical weapons which he used on his own people with our prior knowledge. We installed the Shah of Iran in order to counterbalance fundamentalism in that country, a move which has had no positive outcome of any kind, especially taking into consideration the recent elections there.

As a people, I feel that my country is haughty, self-centered, egocentric, nationalistic, and currently bordering on fascist in its ideology and outlook. Based upon our Gross Domestic Product, we actually give pitifully small amounts towards debtor nations and those suffering from famine, war, and natural disasters.

I highly recommend that you read "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn for a true accounting of our origins and deeds since the 18th century. Sorry to burst your bubble, but this southern neighbor of yours is not what it seems, and my shame at being American is enormous at this time.

Thank you for your sentiments and praise, but I also encourage you to look deeper and see the real face of my devolving nation.

All the best, today and every day to my Canadian friend.

Anvilcloud said...

Hi Keith

I feel badly for you. I know that many Americans struggle with many things about their country. I have my things to say at times too, but I was trying to be very positive today.

I have often thought that there is a great American dichotomy. What you say is true, and what was said in this 'speech' is also true. For whatever reason there seems to be a great disconnect between what Americans are like as a people and what they are like as a political entity. I find it difficult to tell you how much I disapprove of the 'morality' of the current regime, but I suppose that even they may be well-intended in their own way. They probably do think they are battling for right and righteousness.

Canada's history wrt the treatment of native peoples and minorities is also quite shameful. People of the past had a different mindset and were products of their upbringing too. It's hard for us to understand from where we stand and gaze, but the past deeds were repeated in other places by other people. It will never be right, but it was.

I think many of the bad political choices of more recent history have also been made out of fear of communism and now of terrorism. Human rights and common compassion have, wrongly, taken a back seat. While some of this is intolerable, some of it is also understandable because it is hard to serve two masters, hard to focus on two things at once, hard to have more than one priority.

I really think that Americans need to get out more, go abroad more, or even come and visit us in Canada. It's amazing that many people who live close to the border have no concept about what it is like here. Anyway, I think that more exposure to the world would help to broaden horizons.

I am trying, and probably failing, to make you feel better. To me, there's always the good and the bad, the yin and the yang, and it's seldom just one or the other. I think there's a heap of goodness down there.

Take care, and remember that you are also an American and represent what I think is wonderful about your nation, as do all sorts of people who visit this blog and whose blogs I read. I have nothing but respect.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the kind and caring words you wrote! I am a PROUD American and am appalled at what Keith Carlson wrote. Yes, the government of this country has made mistakes, as have the governments of other countries. Unfortunately, those can't be changed, but that doesn't mean that this is a bad country. The people, as a whole, are caring, considerate, and generous, and yes, this country is one of the first to respond to any other country in need. Just recently, the tsunami victims were made aware of the generosity of our people. If Keith is so ashamed to be an American, maybe he should consider changing his citizenship to another country that he feels would be a more perfect fit for him. It doesn't sound as if he has been doing anything to try to make this a better country, just criticizing and complaining about how awful we are. I hope he will let us all know when he finds a country without faults or past mistakes, and if is able to find it, hopefully, he will move there! I'll be happy to throw him a going-away party!! Thank you again for the nice thoughts, as they are totally correct!

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

As far as the comments by "Anonymous", I wish this person would not hide behind that moniker. Although I am critical of my country's political origins and actions, there are indeed many things I like about life here and if "Anonymous" was to read my blog, he or she would see that I spend most of my life helping others and doing my part. As a nurse, I work with the poor and disabled, volunteer for the local Medical Reserve Corps in order to respond to terrorism, disasters, and other emergencies, and contribute in numerous ways to my community. I have been politically active all of my adult life, vote in every election, and take time to talk with people who have different views than mine. I write letters to the editor, go to public meetings, attend local government events, and am in very frequent contact with my congress members and representatives. I also have travelled to more than a dozen countries around the world and know that we have many priviledges here in the US that I do not take for granted and which I readily acknowledge in my writing.

That said, to simply offer to throw me a going away party is a very unconstructive reaction. I prefer dialogue, conversation, and the sharing of ideas. If "Anonymous" would like to take part in such discourse, he or she is welcome to visit my blog or email me from there. I have no plans to change my citizenship, although I may pursue dual citizenship with the country of my choice in the future. I process and ameliorate my shame of being an American by being an involved and informed member of this society.

Judy said...

Thank you! What nice comments.

I tend to get my American history from biographies and autobigraphies, not text books. I like Studs Terkel.

No matter what country we hail from, there will always be room for improvement.

I'm thankful that Canada is the country to the north of me (and the east!), not Iran.

-epm said...

Sometimes some of us in the south romanticize life in Canada (e.g. me). And I suppose, as the Gordon Sinclair post shows, some in the north romanticize life in the U.S of A.

As Keith pointed out, America's largesse comes from an even larger stockpile of wealth. So while we may give handsomely, we don't necessarilly give gererously. As the Bible story tells us, there is little virtue in giving that which we can afford to give. The blessed act is in giving that which you can little afford to give. Still, as indivuduals I think we are a fairly giving lot... at least those of us in the bottom 90% of the economic heap. :)

I'm proud of America's ideals, if not the deeds of her leaders. But I'd like to think I have a mature patriotism, one that allows me to love my country and still challenge her to do better; not an emotionally handicapped patriotism that cannot bear honest self-examination. I have no desire to be a patriotic fool, easilly lead be unquestioning happy-talk. In fact there are few things more un-Amercian to me than the my-country-right-or-wrong, love-it-or-leave-it blowhard.

Oh, yeah.... Thanks for the good wishes! :)

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

What a sane and measured commentary! Thank you so much for chiming in so intelligently! I'm glad that a fellow American can see where I'm coming from.

From my viewpoint, dissent can be patriotic--one can loathe what one's government does allegedly in one's name, and still believe that living in that country is worth the price.

I find that being an American in this era takes an emotional toll as our government continues to make such poor choices,and the pain I feel based upon my country's many misguided actions is real.

I agree that we as a people are very generous--as you point out, it is the bottom 90% who give the most. I also agree that in terms of overall wealth, we give relatively little. That said, there are thousands who contribute time, energy and devotion to animals, children, the mentally ill, the mentally retarded, people with AIDS, the environment, the advancement of science, the list goes on. Still, our country's standing and reputation in the world has taken a dive, and for good reason. We have squandered the good will which was engendered back in September of 2001, and regaining the trust of many around the world will be an uphill struggle.

As a progressive and liberal thinker and activist, I am willing to dig my heels in and state my truths, even if some who are not comfortable with my dissent will simply demand that I shove off to other shores.

Lora said...

Every nation has skeletons in their closet. All of them do things that are less than ideal. You can't do what's going to please all the people, all of the time and for all time.

However, honest critiquing and evaluating our actions and motives are the only way a nation can grow. Paying attention and questioning our assumptions in one of the most patriotic things you can do.

However, I spend 364 days of the year grumbling about the goverment, although I avoid it on my blog. For that one remaining day, it's really nice to step back and appreciate what is good.

Norma said...

Thanks for posting this. I vaguely remember it, but didn't know the source.

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

That's an interesting take on the Fourth of July, Lora. For me, the Fourth is when all of my frustrations often come to a head as the patriotism around me seems to grow beyond all realistic proportion. That said, I have refrained from politics on my own blog to a very large extent and can understand your point of view regarding one day of the year being set aside for appreciation.

utenzi said...

What Keith says is correct though I can't agree with his implication that the USA is qualitatively different in this regard. All nations have limited the rights of some, murdered others, and messed around in the affairs of other sovereign nations. It's what countries do. As individuals we can protest the atrocities but remember also how much we've profited from those nasty things done for our collective benefit. It's better to feel guilty (or smug) than to be marginalized or even dead.