God isn't American
Here We Go Again ...
I'm a pacifist. There aren't many occasions on which I'd support a war, and the current occasion is certainly not one. One of the things that annoys me most about the current situation are the people who accuse me, and others like me, of being unpatriotic.
What I frequently hear is that while I have a right to express my opinion, I should remember that that right is currently being protected by the very men and women whom I am undermining with my pacifism. Certainly I have a right to my opinion, but my choice to dissent makes me unpatriotic and unsupportive of the men and women in the American military.
I disagree. For one thing, I support those in our armed forces. One of my dearest friends is currently over there somewhere. My confirmation sponsor is also over there. So is the first boy I ever thought I loved, along with several other people who have mattered deeply in my life.
I support our armed forces. I sleep better at night knowing that there are people out there to protect me. Nevertheless, I don't want them invading other countries and killing innocent people. That sort of protection I do not want. That doesn't mean I don't support the military. I support the people in it very much, and I support the judicious use of it. I just don't support this use of it.
Second, and more importantly, I'm tired of people operating under the assumption that patriotism means agreeing with everything that our country does.
I spent five months last year in Ireland, and what made the greatest difference in my life was the opportunity to see America from the outside, to see how we look from afar. The answer is that from afar, we don't look infallible.
Despite the belief of many in the United States, God isn't American.
We aren't divinely ordained by God to go forth and solve the world's problems unilaterally. Everything that God does is automatically right because God defines what right is. Everything the United States does is not automatically right because we aren't God, we aren't divinely blessed, and we aren't infallible.
Outside of America, there isn't an assumption that that the United States is God's special country. If you live in Ireland, I think you sort of suspect that God may secretly favor Ireland, and I think most people from most countries feel that way. But here in America, we've taken our wealth to be a blessing from God and our power as a sign that He likes us better than everyone else.
We claim in our pledge that we are "one nation, under God," but I fear that far too often we place ourselves beside God, or even above Him. We claim ultimate authority for ourselves and our pride leads us down roads we should not walk. I sometimes wonder if a direct visitation from God telling those who support this war that God does not want it would sway them, or if they would write Him off as another unpatriotic pacifist.
Criticizing this country does not make one unpatriotic. If I didn't care about the country, why would I bother to criticize it? Why would I not simply live my little life and let the country go to hell if that's what George W. wants? Or, if I really disliked the country, why wouldn't I be out there flying planes into buildings?
I care about my country. Being outside of the United States also showed me some of the amazing promise that we have. I've been to Belfast, and I've seen what American intervention did for a place that was once torn apart by what seemed like an unstoppable war. I've seen what we can do when we do the right things, and I've seen the love that we can inspire when we work the kind of miracles that we can.
I love the ideals that this country was founded on. I love the potential that I can see in our power and our wealth to do good things and to help those who cannot help themselves. I can visualize a country that I would be proud to declare my citizenship in, and I love that country very much.
I love America, but I love what it could be more. I care about my country, and what I want, more than anything, is for it to be the amazing land of freedom that it can be and for it to truly stand for all the things that we claim we do.
I've tired of hearing patriotic songs over the months of constant bombardment, but there is one line from America the Beautiful that I like very much. It says "God mend thy every flaw." I think, rather than turning on me and calling me unpatriotic, the time of patriots everywhere would be far better spent in working on helping to answer that prayer.
Marlayna Soenneker graduated from Notre Dame in January but is continuing to live in the South Bend area until May graduation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Thursday, March 20, 2003