On the cusp of what is likely to be another travesty of a debate, I have been pondering the idea of America’s greatness or lack thereof. Is there validity in considering such a concept and even if we believe there is, what is its relevance to a world stage whose roots are so different than ours?
To some, and I would posit, sadly to a majority, greatness is defined foremost by power, notably militarily although economic hegemony has always been a sword less articulated but welded nonetheless. According to this view, all of America’s other achievements flow from the premise of a mighty military – and victorious – nation. But it also demands a healthy dose of hubris that can obscure both America’s resistance to risk lives in order to combat emerging world orders in the early 20th century, and America’s failures in the fights of Korea (okay, standoff) and most notably, Vietnam. Now more than ever we are a nation whose attitude is yes, we are all in just as long as the “we” remains in the hands of the 5% or so who serve in the arm forces. Imagine what a conscription or better yet, a war tax would do to such a comfortable war by proxy mindset. Our drone wars are mere extensions of a video game culture that expects a victorious outcome if we only can master the controller. But a definition of greatness, rooted in concept of military might, reduces the value of the nation to a league table of tracking our wins, losses, draws. Worse it fuels an identity dependent upon more than any other that type of scorecard. It fails to take into account other ways to serve, other ways to be truly great.
Where that concept of greatness begins, what are its roots, I will ponder in another entry. Right now, I need a refill of my morning cup.