John A. Tures: Never ashamed to be American

July 19, 2013 

In response to hearing about the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, the creator of the critically acclaimed television series "The Wire" claimed it made him "embarrassed to be an American." The writer, a former crime reporter from Baltimore, is white, by the way. But while he will surely be criticized for saying those words, he's not too different from a lot of folks out there.

A high school buddy of mine who is now a conservative shock jock DJ in California (you'd never believe he was liberal in high school) posted a piece on his Facebook page about a survey where more liberals claim they are ashamed to be an American than conservatives.

I sent him a private message reminding him that not long ago, after the results of the 2012 election, millions of conservatives were signing petitions to secede from the United States of America after Barack Obama was reelected. In my opinion, these folks have no soapbox from which to lecture those who burned the flag in the 1960s.

It is a little distressing to see folks from both sides of the political divide seem so callous about their citizenship that they would be willing to throw it away, or express "shame" about their country, when there are folks around the world who would gladly change places, and be an American, not for the welfare state (Europeans are far more generous in that department) but for that opportunity and freedom we provide, that a few folks in this country seem to take for granted.

My students frequently cite a favorite program of theirs, in which someone gets to walk a mile in someone else's shoes, metaphorically speaking. They talked me into watching an episode in which a person whose job was outsourced went over to India to see how the person who took his job lived.

We need a similar program in which people would "live" in another country. And I don't mean visit an American-owned touristy resort that just happens to be in another country.

I mean something where you have to make your living there, get your own food, ride the local transportation, etc.

I've had the privilege of doing that a few times in my life. One time, while I did that in Costa Rica, it was during the lead-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, when we were told back here in the USA that being an American anywhere wasn't a very popular thing.

Someone told me that I would get along with locals if I told others that I was actually Canadian, Swedish, or even German. "Your Spanish is passable … you could even say you were one of us," another told me. But I told them I wouldn't do that. I'm definitely not a perfect patriot, but I got that one right.

And do you know what? I think they respected me for that. I didn't have anyone treat me poorly for being an American. The folks at the embassy down there told me how well the Ticos (Costa Ricans) treated them. And it was confirmed when hordes of Ticos showed up for the U.S. Embassy's 4th of July Party.

I agree with the Lee Greenwood song. And foreigners will respect someone who loves his or her country as much as they love theirs.

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science, LaGrange College; jtures@lagrange.edu.

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