Quote: “America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between” (Oscar Wilde, Interview, 1882)
In the news: US troops express anger at at Trump’s Syrian policy: We betrayed the Kurds (Ryan Browne, CNN, 10.15.19)
In context: America is blessed by geography, history and a founding Constitution that lays the basis for optimum freedom within the safeguards of law. Native Americans paid a big price for the forceful establishment of this experiment in a heaven on earth as close as possible. Immigrants have kept the ideal humming ever since.
The first marauders in North America were English who could afford the journey, along with indentured servants followed by slaves from Africa. Laws over time freed those groups, all in line with the Constitution’s basic intent to create a more perfect union where all humans were created equal. Waves of immigrants from Europe and Asia then arrived to flee crises at home and fulfill America’s growing needs to build an infrastructure across a wide expanse. After all that growth, America now faces a brand new global world in which deeply ingrained cultural norms clash, as do personal beliefs within the clashing cultures.
The cultures within the world’s near-200 countries vary enormously in terms of physical comfort, safety and freedom. Individual well-being relies on outside factors but to the average person the world is likely to be kaleidoscopic. With access to global communication, learned history, current news and plain old gossip intersect. Natural and man-made disasters pre-empt routines and get varying degrees of media coverage depending on location and circumstances. If great enough, however, they all get attention and thereby bring global events closer to home.
The world leading US has a viewer-friendly news delivery that entertains regardless of content. Thus the greater world’s woes seep in gradually. The 2016 earthquake in Myanmar, for example, received scant coverage until the crisis hit a new high when Myanmar’s junta government refused intervention by global agencies to help victims.Similarly, when hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, America as a whole had no idea about conflicts between the federal and local governments until the personal distress of people contrasted with the inability to distribute relief supplies.
Deep down inside, America has a big heart that is hard to reach. The bigger global world is older and has a complex history. It is a patchwork quilt made up of fabric squares that represent millennia-old memories of events that led to the present. Amid the flurry of issues that today confront a world that has grown global, such as disease and climate change, America as the land of immigrants that is the natural master tailor to create the basic pattern for the human ideal that al people are created equal and they are free within the boundaries of adopted laws
Ultimately, however complex the global world becomes, the prevailing factor for humans will be personal contact. America as a whole knew little about Syria and its age-old problems. America had little interest in that part of the world until personal contact at higher levels of the complex governments and cultures involved came up with a solution acceptable to all The men and women of our armed forces sealed the deal. They fought together for a unified goal, they won and then continued learning from each other. The venture was unfortunately cut short for political reasons, but the lessons are not forgotten. America will remember the Kurds and will make amends when the political tides have shifted.
No doubt the Kurds with the age-old wisdom of their culture will forgive the young America and its impatience with the hard-won lessons of older histories. That is why the onus for the future is on America to learn respect for the footprints left behind by history.