Where is my pride?

Where is my pride?

I was born in America, and America is my only citizenship. Am I proud to be an American? Yes and no.

When I was a little girl, I was raised to respect and love my country. It was the 1950s, and most of my friends and their families felt the same way. For some unknown reason, like many other white children raised in the North, I did not connect to slavery as something northern. Those down there in the South were responsible. I was unable to connect the dots until the rise of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. My friends always included people of color. I knew nothing of the trials that people of color could endure in this country. Due to the fact that I am Jewish, I was obsessed with Anne Frank, and what could possibly happen to me. But I grew up thinking Jews were safe over here in America. I grew up feeling safe and proud.

A social unit, and a strong feeling of satisfaction

What is pride, anyway? Well, one of the definitions, when pride is used as a noun, is a family or a social unit of lions. In the photo above, this is a family. You can see the female with her two cubs and the male with the mane watching them.

Pride (again as a noun) is a strong feeling of pleasure or satisfaction with a deed that is well done or excellence in a particular skill. I know that I have pride in having achieved a black belt in martial arts. This is something I achieved through hard work and the generous help of my karate grandmaster and other students who ranked above me.

Merriam-Webster defines pride as “a: the quality or state of being proud: such as: inordinate self-esteem: conceit. b: a reasonable or justifiable self-respect. c: delight or elation arising from some act, possession or relationship.” As a verb, I can say that I pride myself in having achieved a black belt in karate.

So, I ask myself, in this political climate, am I proud to be an American? What does that even mean? We have all heard that “pride is the root of all evil.” Is a lion proud to be a lion? They might seem to be, but isn’t that our projection?

By luck, by fate, I am an American

I was born in America, and America is my only citizenship. I did nothing to earn it, other than I left my mother’s womb in this country. Do I pride myself in being born here? I had nothing to do with it. Call it luck or fate or merely not pulling the short end of a straw, but for reasons I will never know and acts I can never claim to have achieved, here I am. I could have been born in Syria or been the child of rape in ISIS. We are not immune if we are human. If these things happen to human beings anywhere, they can happen to us.

When I traveled abroad in the early 1970s, and I had learned something about the reality of Vietnam, I was shocked when the local folk everywhere I travelled would all say that their dream was to come to America. They loved anyone or anything American.

When I briefly lived Morocco, I was loved as a Jew and as an American. I was a “sister” everywhere. I was asked if I was Jewish as often as I was asked if I was American. Then I had to eat and eat and eat because everyone wanted to feed me. The hearth was always open.

This love of America was confusing. On the European and North African road, I was meeting many conscientious objectors. Most of them were intelligent and thoughtful people who were not running because they were afraid, although they could not have been sane if they were not afraid; they left this country because they did not feel they believed in the war at all.

What I’m not proud of

It must be extremely difficult to shoot or bomb human beings. Thankfully, I have never had the experience. If you believed you were killing in your own defense, or the defense of a loved one, it would still take having no other way out but to kill, unless one had some serious pathology. Killing a human being cannot be easy. But how can you possibly do that when you don’t believe the person in question deserves to die? Am I supposed to have pride in the fellows who bombed innocent civilians, or do I put my pride in the fellows who had to leave America because they could not imagine killing innocent civilians?

I do not take pride in many of the things my country has done. I do not believe in war or countries. We should (that nasty word again) all be one country and one world. We should (again, that word!) take some pride in being human. Frankly, I often think I might even prefer the lion pride. The lion, it seems to me, is little concerned with pride, only HIS pride, his own family. He or she eats and sleeps for many more hours than a human adolescent. Every few days, there is a kill and the lion pride feasts until they sleep again. We, on the other hand, as humans, are capable of having empathy for others (not that I believe for one moment that animals cannot have empathy). At the same time, we have the unique skill of being able to compartmentalize and even turn our backs.

Naturally, if we tried to undertake all the misery in this world, we would be overwhelmed. Reading the newspaper alone is agonizing. What a world, we think, and then we return to our computers to see what good sales are running at Amazon or to contemplate what we will have to eat for dinner.

Making one big difference

I apologize for seeming callous or pessimistic regarding homo sapiens. I do realize that not everyone is in a position or specifically skilled enough to undertake traveling to Syria or Puerto Rico. But what would happen if each of us focused on only one tragedy and did one thing? It could be as simple as writing a letter, sending school supplies to places that cannot afford them, even here in the United States, or buying one desk for one child in Africa.

In years past, when I wanted to buy goats for poor villagers and give each of our great nieces and nephews certificates instead of giving them money for Hanukkah, I was told that was my project, not theirs. This is true, but is this not a teachable lesson? Fortunately, the nieces and nephews have all turned out to be good and charitable kids without me, but there are children growing up in this world to become adults who only think of themselves. The way in which our society is structured naturally can lead us down that road. Bigotry, envy and greed are the sign posts to a selfish kind of pride in what we are able to acquire, confirming the dangers of a capitalist society, and fulfilling all the negative things said about us around the world.

I cannot even say that I have pride in myself. Luck is the only reason I sit here in the beautiful village of Placitas, New Mexico, safe and sound, writing my blogs, as opposed to spending my days foraging for food in fear of being raped or killed.

Why humans produce Hitlers, Mussolinis and Trumps

Until we can learn to live as one world and value each human being as we value ourselves, there will always be the potential for another Hitler, another Mussolini, another Trump. Sadly, and with much regret, I do not believe we are capable of this, any more than the hungry lion can spare his prey. Yes, you are correct. I am the optimistic pessimist, but I do not pride myself in taking this position.

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