Countries are Artificial Constructs

One of my friends applied for a high level federal job many years ago and put me down as a personal reference. Some guy in a suit showed up at my door to interview me about her, and one of his questions was, “Is she a good American?”

That made me blink. Uh, what does that mean, exactly? I suppose one could agree that the Unibomber was not a good American, but did that turn him into a good something else?

I’ve always found it rather absurd to judge people based on the nationalities that are placed on their shoulders simply by virtue of birth. Cultures know no borders, and I’ve yet to meet a single human being who agrees completely with the actions of his or her government.

That’s why I can’t get worked up about immigration or buying American. What makes me so special? I’m only a second generation American myself. Why do I have more of a right to be here than anyone else? And why is it better to support a hard working American who is producing a product so much better than supporting a hard working person from Bangladesh? Do they not have families to support as well? I suppose the fact that I have traveled has given me more of a global perspective.

In many places, national boundaries run right down the center of city streets. How different are you from the person who lives just across the way? Are you more different from them than from the person who lives right next door?

In Istanbul you can walk from Europe to Asia and still be in Istanbul. What does that mean to the people who do that every single day? Do the Istanbullu-Europeans distinguish themselves from the Istanbullu-Asians?

When the Berlin Wall was constructed, we considered this barbaric, and watched as people desperately tried to escape their confines. Prisoners, too, do not want to be where they are. What does that make them? Some countries have border disputes with their neighboring countries. What does that do to the mindset of the people who are living in those disputed areas?

In Saudi Arabia the crowds must applaud at public beheadings. Can we really believe that not a single person in that crowd is not inwardly horrified, inwardly too terrified not to applaud? Are those people less or more Saudi than the guy who did the beheading, or for that matter, from the person being beheaded?

In many areas of the world groups of people wish to break away from the country of which they are a part, but are not allowed to, usually because the real estate in question or the industries are too valuable. It’s not that those countries necessarily want to keep those people who don’t want to be there. But they want those property values and that gross national product.

When children in Iran are made to chant “Death to America”, they are quite often as disaffected as their counterparts in America who are required to say the pledge of allegiance every morning at school. They are just going through the motions to make it through the school day. At least that was the case with me. I didn’t feel a surge of patriotism during my chant. If anything, that forced chant about the death of total strangers probably has the opposite effect. It does not make them hate us. It makes them sick and tired of all the stupidity.

If someone in a democracy stages a protest, are they not being even more democratic and therefore more patriotic than the person who sits idly by and doesn’t question anything?

In many parts of Asia, cohesive tribes exist that straddle borders. The Hmong people live primarily in China, Vietnam and Laos. Do they relate more to the people of their own country, or to fellow Hmong from other countries?

We tend to think of the Aborigines in Australia as one cohesive group, but they actually consist of more than 400 groups, each with its own culture and language. Still, I’m sure they feel more like each other than they do those descendants of criminals which seem to have moved in, from their perspective, just yesterday.

If you know you are gay and your country decides that that is a crime, do you feel less of a citizen, or do you just have less respect for those who are in charge of your country?

When China stole Tibet from its people, the Tibetans did not wake up the next day feeling Chinese, and I’m sure they still don’t.

We all have more in common with each other than we do with our governments. We live, we laugh, we love, we struggle to survive, we take care of our families. Politicians, governments, walls, and checkpoints do not define who we are. The more we all realize that, the less we will feel the need to wage war.

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Don’t Get Your Knickers in a Twist

Is it just me, or is everyone experiencing a spate of mounting hysteria? I know the economy is bad, and there are wars and abuses and crime and tragedy. I know that there are plenty of causes and issues that need to be addressed. The four horses of the apocalypse are being kept quite busy, indeed. But something is different.

For example, here in America you’ll always get your fair share of people complaining about the president if he wasn’t the guy they voted for. That’s the beauty of democracy, in my opinion. But suddenly it’s not just the usual griping, it’s extreme panic. To hear them tell it, all guns will be confiscated so that we can all be trundled into concentration camps by the illegal immigrants, our senior citizens will be killed off, the rest of us are going to be sprayed in the face with some new government created virus, and while we experience a slow and agonizing death from that, we’ll all be forced into a gay marriage. But hey, at least the weather will be nice, because global warming is apparently some huge hoax that was devised in a worldwide conspiracy by 98 percent of all scientists to benefit…whom exactly? Beats me.

It’s even getting to the point where Facebook isn’t fun to visit anymore. Not only does it seem like the latest global outrage is the order of the day, but three times in the past two weeks I’ve watched debates turn into fights in which people who are supposed to be friends engage in hostile name calling.

What has happened to reasoned discourse? Where have courtesy and respect gone? What has happened to checking facts instead of spreading ridiculous rumors? When did we become so gullible? At the rate we’re going, this time next week people will actually believe that Godzilla is rampaging through the streets of New York City.

I long to sit down in a restaurant and hear everyone around me discussing sports, the weather, books they’ve read, their kid’s t-ball game, movies, music, art, dating, travel…anything, ANYTHING but fear, prejudice, hatred, disaster and death. Please. I’m begging you.

If I were queen of the world, the first thing I would do is issue a brown paper bag to all my subjects so that we could all breathe into them and stop this global hyperventilation.

Everything is going to be okay. Really.

Namaste