Wednesday, October 22, 2008

America's real responsibilities

By Caroline Valvardi

In Father McShane’s homily at the opening Mass of the Holy Spirit for this 2008-2009 academic year, he spoke about the responsibility we have to ourselves and to others. His insights complement my own feelings about our values and mission both as individuals and as Americans, but I would like to clarify what those actual responsibilities are. As the world becomes more interconnected through globalization and economic trade, the U.S. continues to display an imperialist nature, which we justify with rhetoric that emphasizes magnanimous intentions for spreading democracy and peace.

We think it is our obligation to enforce our supposedly supreme way of life on the rest of the world. I do think we do have an obligation as a world superpower to support struggling countries that make honest efforts to build stable political, economic, and social infrastructures. However, unnecessarily involving ourselves in every foreign political affair is not only unwise in my opinion, but also against the very founding principles of this country as promoted by our very first president, George Washington.

I do not think that the isolationism Washington advocated is realistic today, and as an International Political Economy major, I see the importance of providing guidance and political and economic assistance to nations that need and deserve it. Nevertheless, trying to institute our specific form of democracy on every country lacking a democratic structure is not only impossible, it is foolish.

The tradition, history, and culture of many nations are not even compatible with our democracy. Also, by trying to build an image of ourselves as a righteous and benevolent world power, we have instead developed a paternalistic attitude, and we believe we have the right to invade countries at will. Ironically, we have created more enemies in our obstinate quest to spread democracy, and many people— even citizens of our own country— question what our true intentions really are. Furthermore, we need to reassess our responsibilities and fix the ongoing problems here in the U.S. before we can effectively serve as a virtuous leader and guardian of nations abroad.

We must focus our responsibility to ourselves back on ourselves. Many of the most serious problems in the U.S. are unrealized by a majority of people, and these issues are never represented in the political arena. The degradation of the stable family structure, the sexual carelessness and immorality encouraged by pop culture, the lack of educational opportunity for the impoverished, and the chemicalization of the foods we eat are just a few of these fundamental, underlying issues.

However, we tend to only want to recognize and fix the consequences. Our method of improving situations in the U.S. is to find solutions to problems rather than to prevent the problems in the first place. We never seem to want to look to the root of problems, and if we would just take more responsibility for our actions and reflect on how we are living our personal lives, we could make a world of change. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to our future generations to make this country a better place in which to live. Our responsibility lies here in the U.S. first and foremost, so it is about time that we start paying attention to our personal selves as well as our collective American selves.

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