Jack wrote this in September, 2006. I posted it on this blog shortly after his death, but since that was more than two years ago, I think it’s okay to post one more time.
Being a good American and a good human being isn’t about waving a flag, hating Democrats or republicans, Muslims, or people who say ugly words about political leaders. It ain’t about fear, hysterical dialect, consumerism and waste.
Being a good American and a good human being is about personal responsibility. About having enough confidence and courage not to feel threatened by every little thing. About assuming the responsibility of not being part of the problem any more than is absolutely necessary. About self-reliance.
Sometimes it’s not obvious how a person might accomplish those things.
- On a personal level your life will find itself a lot better place if you can recognize the fact you are going to die as a means of exiting it. Maybe disease, a car wreck, any of a thousand common ways that don’t have a damned thing to do with any foreign country, foreign leader, foreign war. You are going to die. No point in going into frenzies of terror and hate because the death you get stands a billion-to-one shot at being the act of a terrorist. Trust me on that. You are going to die, and I’ll only be the tiniest, most microscopic bit of a liar when I tell you it won’t be from anything any foreigner does to cause it.
- On a personal level you’ll find it’s a hell of a lot better place if you can learn what is your own business, and what isn’t. If you can change it, it’s your business. If you can’t, it ain’t worth concerning yourself with, getting all worked up about.
- On a personal level you’ll find your life’s a lot better place if you spend considerable energies looking at it, instead of other places, looking at what you like about it, and what you don’t like about it, and changing what you can. Looking in a metaphorical mirror at the sort of person you are and asking yourself if that is the sort of person you want to be. You can’t change the kind of person the prez of bongobongoland is, but you can change the kind of person you are into someone you have more respect for. No one respects a dishonest, hysterical coward, including you when you see it in others.
If all of us could pull that off our own lives would be a lot better, and America would be a better place for it. But insofar as personal responsibility and being a good American, we can expand on that a bit. Here are a few things a good American might do without having to shout from the rooftops about what an admirable person he/she is:
Dependence on hydrocarbons is the ultimate problem of this nation you say you love.
- Be conscious of your own energy use.
- Every plastic grocery or garbage bag, every foam-plastic hamburger box, no matter where it was produced, drives up the price of oil.
- Every time you fire up that hair-dryer you drive up the world-wide price of hydrocarbons.
- Every made-in-China yellow ribbon you buy to stick on your car drives up the price of hydrocarbons world-wide, increases the demand.
- Every made-in-China flag made of nylon you wave drives up the price of oil and increases worldwide demand.
- Every new plastic radio, CD player, computer monitor. Every plastic wrapper from that frozen pizza pie. Every celophane cover and foam plastic bottom covering the piece of animal you’re having for supper and sending to the landfill afterward is driving up the world-wide competition for oil.
- Sure, there’s the other obvious things. The things Jimmy Carter used to beg you to do when he was prez, to help you quit relying on foreign petroleum products. Turn down the heater. Turn up the thermostat on the AC. Don’t drive anymore than you have to. Which, of course, you didn’t care for then and immediately forgot when he left office (which is part of the reason you’re in the fix you are in now.)
But there’s a lot more to being a good American, as opposed to a good human being. Here are a few more ways you could try to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem:
Quit buying ANY foreign product if you can avoid it. Even if it saves you a few cents. Just say no. Refuse and make it clear why you’re refusing.
If this country is going to survive another century the population is going to have to begin manufacturing what it consumes, energy-wise and every other wise. Building hamburgers to sell back and forth to one another isn’t enough to keep a country sound.
Americans are going to have to produce products, and the other Americans are going to have to buy them. We can’t continue indefinitely sending our chunks of our trade deficit off to bongo-bongoland for petroleum, to China for plastic bags, television sets, seat covers and rubber monster toys. We can’t starve out our farmers by buying agricultural products from Mexico and Argentina.
Being a good American involves a hell of a lot more than getting angry when some foreigner says something ugly about it. Loyalty to America and Americans is about keeping America alive, productive, self-reliant, healthy economically.
If we can do those things we’ll find we’re spending a lot less time hurling empty rhetoric back and forth, hating the owners of bongo-bongoland oil, a lot less time bombing the hell out of foreign lands, a lot less angry and full of fear and hatred.
And we wouldn’t need to wave flags to prove we were good Americans.