This I Believe

Peter - Sandy Hook, Connecticut
Entered on June 10, 2007

All nations have a flag that they look to with pride. Most also have an anthem that they sing professing the superiority of their country. American children profess the glory of their country every morning facing the flag in school. Most kids know this verse by heart but do not consider why they do it every day. The strong sense of superiority seeps in slowly through the years, the more times we sing our national anthem and talk about undemocratic nations as inferior and primitive.

This is not healthy pride in one’s country. This sets us apart from our fellow humans, bound by borders and territories and regions. I cannot look at a German and not have an inkling of remembrance for his government’s past foibles, or at a Chinese man and not think about his government’s iron grasp on their nation. It is not that I judge the person on this basis but it is an unhealthy preoccupation. I believe that we should not view ourselves as Americans and gleam at our flag with swelling pride in our hearts but think of ourselves as in a world community and have pride in our entire species because if nothing else, at least we have that in common.

I wish that I was not taught this sort of nationalism when I was a child. I wish I could remain as open-minded and undiscerning as I was 18 years ago. Now, 18 years later, I have to unravel the layers of presuppositions that I have been inundated with in order to interact mutually with somebody distinctly ethnically different from myself. College is supposedly the time when this will happen. I will be in a diverse environment completely different from the suburban town in which I grew up.

From the time of my conception I have been taught to integrate with my fellow Americans and for the most part view those from other nations with apprehension and mild curiosity. My views developed from a young age to the point where I would see a person from a foreign country and view him or her as I would some sort of exotic animal. I would analyze the stranger’s features and mannerisms, frightening myself with the unknown possibilities. But really now I would rather be able to interact with an Iraqi without considering our countries’ opposing viewpoints, and be bored realizing that he was not in fact bizarre and exotic, than stare and wonder anymore.