It’s time for another rant that is completely unrelated to the theme of this blog because I just felt like it. Fourth of July just ended a few hours ago for the folks in the Land of the Free. While dropping in and out of consciousness during a particularly boring Maths lecture on integration and volume of a disk of revolution, my mind wandered and — by a random firing of neurons — I ended up thinking about the birthday of what is, or was, arguably the greatest nation in the world.
Warning: Long Rant Ahead.
Indeed, it wasn’t that long ago when the name America symbolized the triumph of human ideals and the collective might of free-will beings in the heart of a young and impressionable boy living on the other side of this spherical hunk of rock. You know, like in the movie Independence Day when President Whitmore said, “today, we (the people of the world) celebrate our Independence Day”?
That used to be America.
The inspiring speech made by Ronald Reagan, one of the greatest Republicans ever lived, at the Berlin Wall had its 20th anniversary marked just a month ago. As he spoke to the people of West Germany and the rest of Western Europe, he spoke to a generation of people who rose out of the postwar ruins and rebuilt their countries with the aid of the Marshall Plan, the greatest postwar rebuilding master plan ever formulated and a distant reminder of America’s diplomatic success. When Ronald Reagan, addressing the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”, it resonated in the hearts of millions of Westerners living in freedom and millions more who longed for it.
Where did that America go? The more I hear of Mr. Bush Junior, the more firmly I believe that it must be somewhere really, really far away.
Perhaps America has always been the political shithole that it is today and perhaps I was misled into believing tales of the nation’s past greatness by Hollywood’s many WWII offerings. Perhaps it was due to the fact that at a young and naive age of ten, I was reading all the Tom Clancy novels I could get my hands on. But even if the truth does often turn out to be less inspiring than the sanitized accounts of history, I still believe that America was once closer to its founding ideals than it is today.
The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights owes a lot of its birth to the American ideals of freedom and equality, ideals that are enshrined in the nation’s consitution. This constitution is the basis of the Union and represents the hopes and aspirations of a nation of people who had just tasted the sweet nectar of freedom. This is also the very same constitution that was dismissed by Mr. Bush as “just a piece of paper” not too long ago. How did it come this far?
The cynical side of us can argue that ultimately America’s past acts of benevolence were inspired by its own selfish interests. I believe that is not true. There are always people who lie with a straight face and who manipulate and deceive to further their own interests. But similarly, there too will always be people who truly believe in the greater goods of humanity. America’s decision to finally enter WWII was not one of pure altruistic intentions, but it is simply absurd to compare it to today’s Operation Iraqi Freedom. There might have been individual acts of selfishness, cruelty and moral ambiguity, just as there continues to be in today’s armed conflicts, but WWII, for the Americans, was undeniable a “good war”.
America was never flawless, but its people fought hard to stay true to the ideals of its founding fathers. The civil rights movements of the 20th century came to be only because America’s ideology environment enabled its birth. There continues to be racism and injustice even today, and indeed they may never disappear completely, but a huge part of the American way of life is the struggle itself. Today, in a nation described as secular by its constitution, the President publicly called the war on terrorism a “crusade” and his father, the ex-President, said that “atheists are not citizens or patriots“. To hell (literally?) with the founding fathers and their silly ideas about separation of church and state, eh?
But there’s a catch that Mr. Bush and religious fundamentalists should keep in mind: America’s greatness for the past fifty years was largely thanks to the huge advancements it spearheaded in the various fields of science and technology. And here’s some food for thought: according to a recent study in American Scientist, an overwhelming 80% of the leading scientists in American are strict atheist and only 5% holds a traditional view of God in the religious sense. In a nation that is overwhelmingly Christian, this is almost concrete proof that high level enlightenment in science is incompatible, or at least less achievable, with a religious world-view.
Now I profess to be an atheist but I do not take it upon myself to actively persuade people into “converting”. I think people, even Pastafarians and Scientologists, should have the right to believe in what they want to. But it is not unreasonable for me to demand that such beliefs remain personal to those who hold them and be kept out of my life. In today’s America, making such a demand in public is tantamount to career suicide.
Like the African Americans and the homosexuals of the 20th century, American atheists today are discriminated against on a scale unimaginable in most developed European nation. Hell, even the Church of FSM probably gets treated better because apparently in America, belief in any divine supreme being is better than believing in nothing. According to a recent poll, all other factors held equal, more Americans will rather vote for a homosexual or black candidate than an atheist one.
Keep in mind that 80% of American scientists, who are a good representation of the intelligentsia, are atheists and then compare that to the fact that not a single elected politician in America has publicly declared himself/herself to be atheist, we are left with a very unpleasant conclusion: successful American politicians are either liars or idiots. This is clearly not a healthy political environment for the world’s superpower to be in. When will the civil rights movement for the oppressed American atheists come? Will it ever? That is one of the most important questions upon which the future of America’s progress as a nation built on democracy will depend on.
In a recent issue, Captain America died. The superhero who best represented the American spirit is dead. Again the cynical side of us know that Marvel is just trying to make some quick bucks off a character death and he may not even stay dead for long. But still, I find it symbolic and at the very least it manages to stir up some emotions that have been within every one of us who once looked up to America and saw greatness.
But just like how dead superheroes never stay dead, America still has some life left in it. It is not hard to return America back to where it belongs. It took one President to destroy America’s legacy. It will just take another one to restore it. And there is only one candidate who is up for the job.
So if you are American…
PLEASE VOTE FOR
Thank you. You will be much appreciated by the rest of the world.
Disclaimer: I am just a Singaporean teenager. Ideologically speaking, I am neither Democrat nor Republican. I have nothing to gain (except possibly as a member of humankind) from Ron Paul becoming President.