I have not been blogging much about the Middle East because a) other people are doing a much better job of it and I have nothing to add that would add much light to it and b) it’s very hard to type with tears cascading onto your keyboard.
All I can add are my prayers: for the people of Lebanon, and Israel, for peace. And an apology: for whatever part my government is playing in exacerbating this situation.
In the political circles I travel in, it is not uncommon for people to distance themselves from any responsibility for the government by saying “Don’t look at us, we didn’t vote for the guy. Either time.” I think that’s wrong.
The United States is a republic. We are responsible for the people who end up in power, even if we didn’t vote for them ourselves: there is such a thing as community responsibility. And so, I apologize for my country to those outside her borders. (I do not do so to those within her borders, who are themselves members of the community; to them I do say “Hey, don’t look at me, I didn’t vote for the guy.” Some members of the community are more culpable than others.)
Is this anti-American? I like to think of it as being adult. Adults take responsibility for the things that are under their care, individually and collectively. When they have done wrong, they apologize and seek to make amends.
We in America have given very much to the world. But right now we are vastly in the world’s debt: we have given grievance, have acted like spoiled, bullying children, and we need to be adults, apologize and change our ways.
We complain about human rights infractions in other countries while detainees are kept in Guatanamo Bay, with little chance to challenge their detention. We have invaded a country with no cause — Iraq (Afghanistan is a different story) — and have become worse than the tyrants we supposedly went in to destroy. We have acted with disdain toward the rest of the entire world, while basking in our sense of self-righteous superiority.
So, yes, we have much to atone for. I just want to state for the record that one adult, at least, is trying to change things, and that there are many more like me.
I love my country dearly. I love my country enough to want it to be the very best it can be in the world, not merely a piece of puffery. I want us to be the “fairest of them all,” in the sense of being the most just, the most merciful, the most honest.
But I want us to be that in reality, not simply for us to say that we are. And right now, we are not just, nor merciful, nor honest. Maybe we’ve never been, but at least we’ve made a better shot at it than we’re doing now. Maybe the words have always been rhetoric, but there have been times when they have not been completely empty rhetoric.
So some — many — of us roll up our sleeves and try to change things. We write letters, we talk to our friends, we vote. Hopefully, things will change sooner rather than later. But it may take time. (And big changes are not likely to happen before 2009.)
So, to the rest of the world, our apologies. We’ll let you know how the renovation work progresses.