I had a discussion at work today with someone about what makes a good American. Well actually, I’m not so sure it was a ‘discussion’, but rather me defending the fact that I was a good American in a different way than this person.
This ‘talk’ started around the lowering of the flag for Mandela which this person didn’t believe we should do because he wasn’t from this country. He feels that only dignitaries and important people from America should be honored by such a gesture. He was a marine and feels the flag has special meaning, but implied had particular meaning especially to him.
I took offense to this honestly. And it raised questions in my mind, just what does make a good American? While I certainly understand why he feels such pride having served our country, and I would by no means diminish that–I feel there are other ways in which people do honor to this country.
He made the point, and strongly, that many men and women die for our country overseas, and the flag doesn’t go up and down for them. Yes, I do understand that for sure. But they are honored with flags of their own and in other ways. I tried to explain to him how Mandela stood out as a human being and how he saved a whole country from war. I am not saying an individual life isn’t any less important, but when one person particularly shines, then an allied country can pay tribute.
Maybe I did not enlist in the service, but I do service every day. I have been a vegetarian for 37 years and therefore cut my carbon footprint considerably. That means I don’t tax the resources as much in this country. I’ve also been an athlete so I stay healthy and thereby don’t put a burden on the healthcare system like most Americans. I recycle and have way before it was fashionable and compost too.
More importantly I try to be kind to my fellow human, no matter what race, socio-economic background or religion. Would I die for my country and freedom? If push came to shove, I would. I personally believe in trying to work things out peacefully, but I don’t think that makes me less of an American.
Some people choose to be soldiers that carry guns. Others of us are soldiers that use words to change things one person at a time. Our way is much less noticeable at times, can be frustrating and certainly isn’t always as immediately as convincing as pointing a gun at someone. But people do die for their words or go to jail for many, many years. And for their beliefs.
So no, I don’t carry a gun and I didn’t enlist to fight for my country, but I do always fight for what’s right! Equality, peace, justice, freedom for everyone, ending hunger and poverty, and spreading love. Sometimes the people with the biggest guns don’t even remember why they were carrying them.