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A Comparison: America to a Human Child
While watching a horse race on television set in Britain recently, I noticed something that had been in my face for years but had gone unnoticed. While the Queen and her Dukes and Knights rode around the perimeter of the track in their finest tails and top hats it hit me: tradition. Their clothing, actions, and even the race itself is steeped in tradition. Not hundred year old tradition but hundreds of years old tradition: England is ancient. France is as well, Germany, Italy, China and Japan are ancient. They all have age old traditions handed down from generation to generation and proudly keep and maintain them regardless of what the media and populace think. Yet even those groups are enjoying the traditions and accept them for what they are: the history of their country.
But America is different. It thrives on tossing away that which is "old" and embraces that which is new, different, even scandalous.
What do I mean?
Well, in order to explain myself I would like to compare our country to a human child, beginning at birth. The birth of our nation in 1776 began with a bang: the Declaration of Independence. America burst from the womb that was England with a loud and decisive statement of "Here we are!" to the rest of the world. We had been nurtured and lay growing within the body of England until we could no longer be contained then we ventured down that uncertain path to freedom from our safe yet constrained place.
We then began to grow, taking in the world and its wonders. Lewis and Clark's Voyage of Discovery was our learning to crawl, to explore our playpen called North America. We set our feet on a path that began with the Eastern Seaboard and turned West towards unknown territory much as a toddler learning to walk might, seeing something interesting and beginning a journey to learn about our environment.
The War or 1812 could be our Terrible Twos in which we are learning our boundaries and deciding we will not accept them. We decided to find a way to get what we want and will not be denied.
Our Formative Years
The mid 1800's are the years we began to be schooled. The Civil War is our first fight with our best friend, he who we have known for most of our lives; or perhaps it is better stated our first fight with that younger sibling. We love them yet they did something which made us mad and all hell breaks loose. The family is divided, and a terrible battle ensues. In the end, the stronger sibling emerges as victor yet some wounds run so deep they may never truly heal. The young family is forever damaged.
After the war, we begin to stretch out across the country and new things are learned; we begin to become as the child who pulls the wings off of flies when we decide the time has come to eliminate the Indian Culture. We are still too young as a country to realize how cruel we are, this not understanding that we can all live together in harmony and respect so we set out to kill that which we do not understand.
Entering the 1900's
Then comes the new century. We have left grammar school behind and are entering junior high school. We are about to leave our youth behind and become teenagers. We are growing stronger as a body does once they hit the early teens and we are set on finding our place in the world. Will we be the one who is picked on by others because we are the new kid on the block? Or will we show the world who's boss and take on all comers, emerging with a bloody nose but the rest of the world now knows we are a force to be reckoned with.
Then comes another world war and we are tested again, The first bully has cleaned up his wounds and thinks our first victory was a fluke. Another older culture joins in and we are forced to defend ourselves and those who are on our side once more. Again, we emerge victorious; bloodied worse than before but victorious.
We then hit our mid teens around 1950. We feel we are unbeatable, having just defeated the best the world has to throw against us. We become cocky, arrogant. Bring it on! we shout to whoever can hear us. We begin to act like a sixteen year old with his first drivers license, going wherever we want to and trying out our father's beer, getting drunk for the first time. We are invincible!
Then two small countries backed by another power test us once more and this time, things are different. While we may claim victory it is hollow and may not be as real as we want to believe. But we remain teenagers and to our minds at least, invincible. As we continue to grow more and more things change and not for the better.
The Last Thirty Years
Beginning in the mid 1980's we are as those in our senior year of high school and moving forward in the world. We are the "top dog" in school and no one messes with us. At least, no one but that strange person who doesn't fear us at all. They may not pick a fight directly but they let everyone know they are not afraid of us by taunting us, throwing things at us. We react but cannot catch them: they are too fast and hide when we come after them.
But still we move forward. We begin to experiment, to try things never before attempted. We get tattoos, nose rings, face and eyebrow piercings. We are not satisfied with our appearance and we begin to change it, try new things to make us feel better. We are shallow and petulant, selfish. Respect is a thing forgotten for it makes one weak in the eyes our peers.
Then we go further. No longer are we satisfied with changing ourselves, we decide to demand others accept our changes. We become that which God and our Founding Forefathers never envisioned, going so far as to even change our very identity, that which we were born with. Being a man or woman is not who we are, now we must become something else.
It is amazing that the majority of children survive the late teens and early twenties to become adults. Drugs, alcohol, experimentation, a "know it all" attitude that refuses to allow them to acknowledge and learn from others who truly do know better and an arrogance that all too often proves deadly. As a country, we have done all of these and more, gaining then losing world friends as we continue to age. We splinter off into groups, "cliques" who belittle others in order to make ourselves feel better. We embrace the newest, the biggest, the best the world has to offer without taking a moment to determine if it is best for us or if it might harm us, perhaps permanently. We are invincible and have no thought for tomorrow.
America, if we want to reach adulthood in the eyes of the world we must become one, strong by cooperation instead of splintered factions of a once strong family. No longer can we be the cousins that hate one another, who fight at a drop of a hat. We must become a family who cares for one another and fights for each other. We cannot continue as children, continuing to become something we were not born to be, we must embrace that which we were born. We cannot continue to indulge our fantasies, our whims. We must take responsibility for our actions, care for our children. We must put aside childish things and put on the mantle of becoming a participating member of society, improving both our lot in life and that of our brother or sister. Stop acting as though you are a child: you are no longer a small child who can expect others to care for you. It is time to take out the nose rings, cover the tattoos. Trim your hair and wash out the dye. Take off the dress and put on a suit. Love your children and do not ship them off to your parents to raise. Look at your spouse and remember the love you felt when you were married. Be your age, not a younger version of what you wish you were. Grow up! Take your place in the world and make it a better place.