A little while back my wife and I offered someone a ride home from somewhere. But they had already called a cab. About a week later, I ran into the person again, who with glee told me of her luck on the taxi ride. She had found an envelope with $400 dollars in the back of the cab. Rather than give it to the driver, whom she figured would simply pocket it himself, she took it with delight.
Maybe America has always been this way. Maybe I'm just more in contact now with this dimension of American society. Maybe it's the economic crisis. But America is feeling less and less to me like that dream-land I grew up admiring. I have perhaps skewed opinions of which countries you have to watch your wallet in. England--pretty safe. Germany--pretty safe. Switzerland--very safe. But I watch it like a hawk in Paris or Italy. Has America become a place where you have to watch your wallet because everyone pretty much is only looking out for themselves?
Then there's the absence of real debate. Forget blaming postmodernism, this is as old as the hills. Cable channels mostly are just bully pulpits. Congressmen for the first time in history yell out disrespectfully at the President. I'm tired of the popular one-sided evaluation, "the Enlightenment was bad." There's nothing wrong with aiming at objectivity or following the very beneficial rules of how to do so. There was a lot, a lot of good in the movement during which America was founded.
It's not too late, but either we are slipping into being just another nation as usual or I had been falsely looking at America through skewed glasses all those years.
It is ironic that this gnawing feeling that we are in danger of radical decline reached its critical mass to post today, on 9-11, this horrible day in our history. But also ironic is the fact that excessive nationalism is itself part of that decline away from objectivity. The two or three years immediately following 9-11 were years of excessive irrationality in America. We forgot important distinctions, like the difference between the bad people who attacked us (Al Qaeda) and a different bad person named Saddam Hussein of similar skin color of the same general religion (although as different from bin Laden as a liberal Episcopalian would be from an ultra-fundamentalist baptist) living in the same general region (Afghanistan is about as far from Iraq as east and west coast of America).
The greatness of the America I love is to put truth above nation. Christians should do this naturally because God is over all and shows no favoritism. Nationalism, then by my definition, is itself anti-American if it leads to thinking we have some intrinsic greater worth than anyone from anywhere else. The greatness of America is in its real attempt at objectivity in its assessment of truth, its openness to all people of all races and religions if they will play nice, and in its advocacy for good in the world.
9-11 is an excellent day for us to remind ourselves of these core values!