“Only in America” is a phrase that used to be primarily used in a positive way to express the many possibilities and hope of living in the USA. Now I primarily hear it in the context of complaints instead of hope. The phrase “only in America” is usually infused with disgust.
I get it. Our country is far from perfect. There are a lot of things that frustrate me about what’s happening in our country. I engage in some conversations about many of the trends and decisions – although I’m fairly picky in when and with whom I engage because there is no reason to repeat the same venting rants or circular reasoning. But I listen to the disrespectful way so many talk about the lack of sound character among leadership, the comments about how ignorant or unethical something is, and I marvel at how often we cannot see in ourselves some of the very qualities we’re slamming others for having. Sure, we might stand on opposite ends of an issue, but we both spew. We cover our ears while lobbing facts or insults to the other side. We choose a safe distance, perhaps because it makes our disrespect of each other a bit more palatable for us. When we use the phrase “only in America” or complain with other specific words, aren’t we undermining ourselves? Aren’t we adding to the problem instead of adding to a solution?
Isn’t America – at least in part – what we as citizens contribute to it? Yes, we cannot control all the legislation. Most of us are not decision-makers in the courts. But we are not victims. We’re not helpless. We have influence among our friends and community. That influence shouldn’t only be focused on lobbing insults and facts across the line to change others’ minds. We should use our energy and time to walk up to people, sit across the table, look someone in the eyes, and listen. Then walk alongside each other whether we agree or not. We can still do life together. We can still respect each other. We don’t have to tear people apart. We also don’t have to agree with everyone. Respect and differences are not mutually exclusive. In fact, respect is easy when people are similar to us. It’s basically self-respect – or might tip into self-centeredness.
Deep respect involves humility. We still maintain our own identity and values but we don’t let pride infect our relationships and interactions.
Perhaps one day we will say “only in America” can we experience such a shift in the way we grow beyond disrespectful and destructive fighting.
Even if we don’t do so as an entire nation, we can do so in our communities and personal lives.
Take an honest look at how you can improve and grow today.
Then do so.