Americans love them some ‘Merica (or royally despise it, yet refuse to move for unclear reasons, but that’s another blog). Patriotism is awesome and I love my country. But there comes a point when patriotism becomes twisted and cruel. Just like self-confidence can warp into stuck-up pride, loving your country can also make you tune out all others.
Case and point: I was on vacation over this past weekend, so I did something I don’t ever get to do: channel surfing (we don’t have TV). It was here that I saw coverage of an attack on a Kenyan shopping mall. Evidently, it was a terrorist plot that killed 68 at least. At first, I noticed nothing unusual about this news, just shots of Kenyans, reports of death tolls, et cetera. But when I cycled through the channels again, I saw something new:
“Americans among the dead.” Let me repeat that. “Americans among the dead.” Really? That’s what’s making the headline? What about the Kenyans among the dead? Why did we stop talking about those? It’s only been an hour or so and we are immediately talking about ourselves, the minorities in the attack, rather than the true targets.
Now this one I at least understand. The news station is ultimately American and catering to an American audience. Thus, they must show what would interest Americans. It’s simple marketing, really. But the fact that it’s necessary makes me very, very sad. In order to rope in Americans, we have to show them how they are affected by global disasters. It’s not enough to expect empathy.
But the next day was pretty much inexcusable. I turned on the TV again and I saw a new headline: “How Safe Are American Malls?” They were still showing footage of terrified Kenyans running around, but the news anchors were talking about “Could this Happen Here?”
REALLY?! Just one day later and we have completely turned the camera back on ourselves.
First of all, are you really going to compare American dangers to Kenya? How many violent war factions and terrorist groups do we have in America? How about Kenya? Or all of Africa, really? When I was looking up the mall attack, I actually had to sort through to find out which terrorist attack I had seen on the news! That’s how bad things are; you have to sort through the violence! There was actually ANOTHER violent attack in Kenya the very next day! Do you really want to say that we suffer the same fears and dangers as they do?
And that’s my second point: fear rules us. The reason Americans are so closed-off from the outside world is mortal terror for ourselves. We’re afraid that someone will kidnap our kids while they’re Trick-or-Treating, afraid that our neighbors might steal our identity, afraid that someone might hijack our planes; afraid that somehow, in some way, the horrors our the outside world will penetrate our bubble of safety and comfort.
So we close ourselves off to keep out the things we fear, and in doing so, we block ourselves in. It’s a two-way shield. Remember Franklin Roosevelt’s old adage? “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” What happened to that? I’m not saying the world isn’t a scary place, neither am I saying that America is perfectly safe at all times. And it is perfectly okay to feel fear. But we as Americans have allowed fear to define us. We are terrified creatures who lock our doors and when the needy come knocking, we point a shotgun in their face and call them a thief, a rapist, or a terrorist.
And we turn every spotlight in the world on ourselves because that’s what we are most concerned about; us. As the Apostle Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained these things…” but I know that this is a problem. When danger threatens Kenya, it’s okay to wonder if we’re safe, too. But when your friend says “I am hurt,” checking your own injuries should not be your first reaction. Instead, you should say, “tell me where.”