That Good Ol’ American Mentality
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012 22:03
Many of us have been raised with the mentality that we need to stand up for what we believe, support free speech, and utilize our talents to further ourselves in society. It is our duty to protect and serve the world, topple dictators, aid victims of natural disasters and defend individual freedoms.
While most would argue that these are, regardless of intent, good actions, we have been taught to defend our beliefs and our rights because we as individuals matter in the great grand scheme of things. And the more we have been encouraged for our individuality, the more I fear we have drifted away from what we are actually being encouraged to do.
In a society where we refuse to be wronged, the classic American ideals of justice and morality have been misplaced in everyday problems and mistakes, and I place a large amount of this blame on 24-hour news stations.
While the connection may seem strange, just turn on FOX News or MSNBC for five minutes and you will see radicals from all sides of the political spectrum cursing their opponents, accusing their radicalism of destroying the nation while turning a blind eye to their own faults. Everyone is up for blame in American society. Everyone but the one doing the blaming.
This attitude has poisoned our nation’s foundation. Whether it is Congress trying to pass laws, involvement in foreign affairs, or disputes over Constitutional meanings, political parties and politicians have opted to promote self-interest and have failed at using the arts of communication and understanding.
This mentality extends far beyond the political spectrum, and unfortunately I’ve noticed it recently taking root in our own kindly community, Furman. I’ve seen it when student organizations bring offensive speakers, and when the student body responds violently against these groups instead of sitting down to well-constructed and well-meant discussion on how to better represent CLPs.
It happens when groups accidentally plan events on the same day. They secretly build vendettas against each other rather than laugh at the accident.
Finally, I also can’t count the number of times I have immediately judged someone after an argument or disagreement, never stopping to realize I may not be as right as I think I am.
Because the world has insisted that each one of us is special and individual, we too often are sure that we are individuals who cannot be held back. We are mighty and important people who no one should ever wrong.
We’re a constant playlist of didactic outrage. We can be heard saying, “You had best agree with me, because I’ve read an article online!” or “How in God’s green earth did this idiot ever pass driver’s ed?” or “How dare my server take more than twenty minutes to bring me my food, the heathen wench!” or, simplest of all, “How can this person ruin my day like this!”
While at first these statements sound ridiculous and rude, I am distraught realizing the sheer number of times these concepts pass through my very own mind.
In embracing our own individuality we are too ready to feel wronged. We are too ready to think that someone else is not treating us like the special person we are.
America was certainly founded on the idea that we are all individuals who deserve equality and respect, but we have misinterpreted this concept to apply to only select individuals (translation: ourselves) and those we agree with or respect.
Yet this mentality is far from the true ideology of individuality. The concepts of individuality, personal rights, and personhood are not there to protect ourselves, but instead to remind us that we are not the only ones who matter. America was not created to achieve individual success, but instead for every individual to have the right to pursue their life as they choose, find what they love, and find happiness.
Our nation did not originate insuring that those who were chosen would find success, but instead was built so that we together could help each other to achieve a better way of life.
So next time you jump to attack anyone you believe has wronged you, think twice, take a deep breath, and remember you are dealing with another individual with those same inalienable rights as you.