It’s very hard at times to have open-minded, genuine conversations, without people’s emotions getting involved, or their life-long programming kicking in, overriding rational thought.
This invariably happens when I have a conversation with someone, many times a fellow American, about the state of the world, society, politics (foreign and domestic), sports, culture, education, etc. You pretty much can pick and name your own topic, especially when comparing the great “U.S. of A.” to other parts of the world.
I tend to have a more global view, looking at what works where and why. Yes, I AM in fact an American (by birth) and I do have some level of national pride (in a healthy way), but I am also “world-wise” enough, having spent 20 years of my life living in Europe and having been blessed to have travelled to many other countries, to know first-hand that we, — contrary to what the establishment wants all Americans to firmly believe –, are NOT always the biggest, the best, the brightest at everything in the world.
It goes against the very grain of the most basic All-American essence, that Americans MUST, by definition alone, BE #1 in every possible way, excelling before all others at everything. Whatever anyone else can do, the American wants to be able to do it better. This is the most engrained form of brain-washing and conditioning any citizen in the “free world” could possibly experience, oftentimes without even knowing it. It permeates every aspect of American life, from infancy, through all stages of childhood development, into adolescence, and well throughout working adulthood and the ever-present pressures to conform and fit in. And if you’re not “yeehaw all the way” 100% of the time, you’re practically called out and shunned as “UN-American” for even considering that someone or something out there could possibly be better!
Trying to have conversations about how things are done elsewhere, or how other countries (or cultures) do things OUTSIDE the U.S., oftentimes falls on deaf ears or stubborn, misguided “pride”. Even bringing up the idea that we could learn from others and improve our own ways, for many zealous U.S. patriots is tantamount to not having enough “Red-White-and-Blue” flowing through your veins.
I find that this radical “Ameri-Centric” view of the world does everyone a great disservice, and it is up to us Americans who have had the benefit of having lived and worked overseas, beyond the confines of the “lower-50”, to better educate and enlighten our solely domestic compatriots.
It’s perfectly possible (AND OK!) that others do things better than we do, and that we can still be proud Americans who love our country (with all of its flaws and problems).
Here are some very BROAD examples of areas where we, as a country, could stand some improvement, learning perhaps to pick and choose successful solutions (or approaches) from other countries, where these tend to work better, for one reason or another:
- primary and secondary school education
- post-secondary collegiate / university education
- healthcare and health management
- social safety nets
- regulations over food production and medicinal drug production
- care and dignified aging for the elderly
- mass public transportation systems
- workforce regulation, incl. wages, protections, paid leave, etc.
- overhaul of insurance industry regulation
- overhaul of banking and financial industry regulation
- scientific innovation and invention
- lesser emphasis on competitive sports and more emphasis on well-rounded general education foundations
- international and foreign relations and cooperations by treaty or agreement
- and many many more…
A continued neglect over these and other issues by us will ensure that we not only paint ourselves into a corner, with our back to the wall, but will also ensure that our [perceived] preeminent global standing will surely slide downhill, once and for all relinquishing our ruling position at the global table.
We need to learn once again to play nice with others, while keeping a respectful discourse, and being mindful of everyone’s interests (not just ours alone), and we need to signal to everyone else that we are willing to listen and learn from them as well, recognizing they all have something of value to us.
And while we might even recognize that others have something of value or interest to us, we can’t just be bullies who take things by force, just because we want them, but we can learn to ask nicely, say “please” and “thank you”.
As Americans, whereever we go, whomever we come in contact with, we need to do our own personal best to act as good Ambassadors, act with kindness, speak thoughtfully and measuredly, be sensitive to others, but remain true to our own beliefs and values, while keeping an open ear, eye and mind and be willing to exchange thoughts and ideas in a civilized, balanced and not-childish way.
In that way, we not only establish Goodwill toward others, who will find their dealing with “the American” more pleasant and meaningful, but we also increase the value to ourselves as a nation because we can learn from and improve upon the experiences and lessons of others.