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Why I'm Not For America First

I’ve always thought of America as one of, if not the world’s leader on many important issues, not the least of which have been such things as freedom of speech, wealth, democratic processes, values of fairness and justice and of course, military strength. Until I visited some Scandinavian countries for the first time  in the late 1980’s, I thought the American standard of living was above everyone else’s.

My view of America was based on the normal doses of history, propaganda, and real news to which I was exposed as a person born during WWII, such as the Korean war, the Berlin airlift, the Berlin wall, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. Then came Vietnam. My innocence regarding the nobility of American foreign policy was shattered. There were two sides to the arguments about the war, but some things were certain: having "the most powerful military in the world" didn't mean you won every war; our leaders didn't always make wise decisions; and the view our government was providing its citizens was a distorted one. Then came the civil rights movement and for me, a sheltered, white, northern small town person, a greater realization of the inequalities that existed within our country. Issues of world peace, of economic disparities, of military strength being used to shore up wealth and power, rather than to protect liberty, became more salient for me, and I realized that the most cogent voices on such issues were often not American ones. Much of the rest of the world—in Europe, in Africa, in South and Central America, in Asia—was grappling with the same issues and seeking reasonable and fair answers, just as were many of the most learned and statesmanlike Americans. I developed  a sense that we were all in this together and  that the this, was  becoming more and more a global issue: racism, nuclear proliferation, inequality, population health, and more recently, climate change. Survival of the things I valued was a worldwide issue, not just an American one. Our country was not an island and the beacons of light I once thought we alone stood for, had become multiple beacons of light from sources around the world, but ones that were in danger of being obscured by clouds of protectionism: protection of cultural idiosyncrasies, of possessions, of wealth, of  local resources, of privilege and of power.

The problems confronting the world are ones that require collaborative solutions. The climate is changing and to slow the process and perhaps one day reverse it, requires a global effort. In the meantime, rising oceans and extreme weather, plus water shortages, are producing increased migration. To regard one’s own country as “safe” from these scourges and thus not to cooperate in fighting climate change and instead close our borders to immigrants who are victims of these forces is like sticking one’s head in the sand. Areas of the world have become almost permanently at war. The issues causing such wars are myriad and include protecting oil wealth, religious disagreement, extreme economic disparities, rising cultural and economic expectations among the dispossessed, and drought and famine. Whole populations are becoming refugees and moving into other countries’ territories. Military solutions, particularly those that rely on nuclear threats are no solutions at all and increase the dangers they are trying to solve. In our richest countries we have drug usage that supports gangs and cartels becoming more powerful than governments in places as disparate as Afghanistan and Honduras, which in turn, provokes enough violence to cause ordinary people to leave those countries for safer lands, or for those ‘safer’ countries to send in the military in what almost always turns out to be a futile effort to try to eradicate the problem and stabilize the country where it resides.

None of these problems can be solved by a protectionist policy of putting our own country first. The world is simply too connected—by climate, by travel, by the internet, and by global business—to allow one country to thrive while others sink below the surface. And for me, ever since my epiphany during the Vietnam war, I cannot think of a reason why the success and survival of my fellow Americans is more important than the success and survival of any other humans with whom I share this planet. We are one human race and we sink or swim together.

Casey Dorman, Editor

Reader Comments (11)

if only our people could adopt your same principles to the issues our nation faces internally and recognize that the boundaies of race, class, wealth, education, lifestyle and place are just as great inside the USA as any border wall we could hope to build.

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDariel Garner

Excellent, Casey,
There's a full moon over India and Gandhi lives again.
Who's to say you have to lose for someone else to win?
In the eyes of all the people, the look is much the same,
for the first is just the last one when you play a deadly game.
It's about time we realize it, we're all in this together.
It's about time we find out, it's all of us or none.
It's about time we recognize it, these changes in the weather.
It's about time, it's about changes, and it's about time. (John Denver)

In regard to Dariel's comment - I understand the point of eliminating boundaries, but in my mind, the term "OUR people" does not exist. The microcosm and the macrocosm are inter-related. Both are in need of our attention and activism, and each affects the other.

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBilllie Kelpin

As a refugee and an immigrant, I of course agree with you, Casey. As a person who has studied migration both human and non-human, and who has written about it, and someone who has taught and published about the pseudoscience of eugenics in which some are more meritorious than others by virtue of their skin color, sex, religion, place of birth, etc., I fight every day against the notion that we are not one world, that we can isolate ourselves either personally or nationally from the extraordinary web that is our small blue-green planet.

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAnca Vlasopolos

What makes you think that the majority of the world even can or wants to "collaborate" with regard to finding solutions to global issues? There are cultural and practical resistances and limitations to whatever sort of jamboree of equity you're envisioning. There's a lot of posturing and lip-service given to globalist agendas but most people and many countries don't want to alter their customs and behaviors simply to promote a species-wide benefit. Believing that some harmonious spirit of altruism will suddenly spread across the planet is the actual act of burying one's head in the sand. There are many people and governments across the globe who, because they do not share our values or belief systems, will literally stomp our collective head into the sand and take our lives and wealth if given the chance. Protectionism through military strength and accumulated resources is the best way to ensure that at least some aspect of humanity will survive in whatever sort of pandemic or catastrophe you're envisioning. If we try to pull everybody who's drowning onto the lifeboat, we will all go down and nobody will survive.

A government's job, specifically my United States government, is to protect and ensure the well being of me and all of my fellow citizens. Other countries are required to be concerned for their own citizenry. For example, the Scandinavian utopias you visited in the late 1980's, are now, despite governmental efforts to obscure the truth, largely ruined due to trying to provide and give refuge to the unfortunate of the world as opposed to being acutely concerned for the lives and livelihood of their own people. You simply can't give away your own country's future just because it makes you feel morally-centered or even morally superior.

I've also considered a new concept regarding protectionism in the past few years. There should be a movement which insists that anyone who governs a country (President, Premiere, Prime Minister, Chancellor, etc.) should be a person with a biological family. Although this concept doesn't necessarily insure "the long view" of political decision-making, it at least increases the chance that someone will look beyond the limit of their own lifespan in decision-making and perhaps compel that leader to secure a better future for their progeny and thus, the future of their country. What Angela Merkel has done to Germany with her "adopted" children is both a betrayal and a travesty.

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

A courageous commentary, Casey. My guess is your replies will include as many Mark Wheelers as Billie Kelpins. I fear Mr. Wheeler is right: there is scarce motivation among the nations of the world to come together as a global community. Maybe the best we can hope for is that OUR government will be honest with us. That we will not be mislead into conflicts that send our young people to die in lost causes. Case in point: are we in Afghanistan today to defend America? Or because no president wants to be the one to "lose" that endless war?

You wrote, "We are one human race and we sink or swim together." A tipping point may come--sooner than later--when we are forced to acknowledge that truth. This is what we are leaving to our grandchildren.

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterC.W. Spooner

Many others agreed to collaborate, in Paris, on enacting regulations to limit emissions that cause climate change. Many other countries, in the UN, agreed to ban nuclear weapons. The US opposes both agreements. The option to protect oneself and not collaborate is neither a reasonable option nor a real protection because without such collaboration the problems that endanger us will not be solved. Leadership can make this more likely to happen. Pessimism, cynicism or antipathy with regard to finding global solutions is not a solution.

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCasey Dorman

I have spent most of my life unlearning the acculturation that started as a child in the USA. It took years to learn the disdain that our nation and peoples holds for our own people, others and in truth they for us.
"...one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all" was actually part of a pledge of allegiance to the USA flag that every schoolkid said every morning. pretty hard to believe in the late 60-70's ... poverty almost as bad as today, decades of rioting, political assasinations, revelations of America;s false flag history of war, the beginning of the shattering of the American Dream (nee Lie). pending nuclear annihilation sold as survivablre war. Pretty weird god to be under that would let that happen, I always felt.

These are the American decades for the world, We are the outlaw nation, the bad boy. We are the one that doesn't sign treaties or abrogates them at the forst opportunity...ask our indigenous peoples or look at war crimes treaties or the Universal declaration of Human Rights.

Couple the disdain we hold for the rules of the majority of the world with the revelations in Ellsberg's new book Doomsday Machine... that the USA has always planned on making an all-out first strike against Russia, China and their allies, that the power to initiate those launches can be as low as a single jet commander and that just one strike on Russian or American command strusture would unleash dead-hand retaliation from both countries, exterminating all beings. We have repeatedly reneged upon our treaty duties to continue the process of disarmament started 30 years ago and are instead re-arming.

Our nation truly needs to build a felt and acted upon empathy/compassion not just for the people of the rest of the world, but for each other and indeed for ourselves, for it can only be that such great hate and hurt can only resonate from our own broken hard as granite hearts

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDariel Garner

"The option to protect oneself and not collaborate is neither a reasonable option nor a real protection because without such collaboration the problems that endanger us will not be solved." I never said that collaboration couldn't solve problems. I said it was extremely unlikely to get desperate governments and disparate peoples to agree to the same rules and proposed outcomes of any venture, no matter how philanthropic the proposed agenda. Realism with regard to finding even limited solutions actually is a solution as opposed to the quixotic meanderings of token heralds envisioning and then proclaiming the need for a multicultural chorus harmoniously singing on a sunlit hilltop.

And as for the comment ostensibly comparing the relative harshness of my words with those of Billie Kelpins, (and John Denver) I feel obliged to push back on that a bit by saying that when I wear a slightly different writing hat, I'm one of the most widely published love poets on our small blue-green planet. Not famous, not good, but widely-published.

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

If we are the "outlaw nation," then really, there shouldn't be anybody who wanted to emigrate to the United States. That sort of statement indicates a complete disdain for the sensibilities of tens of millions of people who would like to come here. With that reasoning, they must all be ignorant or stupid to want to leave their homeland to come into this abrogating, disdainful, discompassionate, lying country. I'm not sure where the idea that the U.S, has a heart that is "broken" and "hard-as-granite" came from. I suppose that must be due to the disacculturation of American values and the adoption of a cultural Marxist ideology. This country and its people are the most charitable people in the world. Both individually and collectively, we volunteer, we donate, we aid and we assist. Every nation has negativity in its history, but we have been miseducated over the past fifty years to believe the we are guilty beyond redemption as having acted as some sort of virulent global pox. People vote on a country's desirability with their feet. If we were in fact a global pox, why would anyone want to move to the land of patient zero?

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

Mark- Much of the immigration we see is forced and often is due to marketplace aberrations.

Marketplace Information --- free and reliable information flows are very scanty and are heavily influenced by a Holltwood version of America. Most people in the world belive we live a lifestyle that is actually only available to a very few. That is easy to verifyby looking at the biggest box office movies on foreign screens. A freind recently visited from Belgium. She was shocked that the living conditions in rural New Mexico, just outside Santa Fe, were so similar to Romania. Statistically she was actually very close.

Forced-- We don't fight our wars and proxy wars at home. Many immigrants come as de-facto refugees of economic or political turmoil. Wars produce unofficial and official refugees from every corner of the world. Many are displaced by our predatory capitalists abroad...think Banana Republics, one-sided trade deals. NAFTA is a good example... the President of Mexico that got it signed went into exile in NYC (now in Ireland) when he got out of office. The rural economy was devastated by USA grain production.

Wage arbitrage-- Many immigrants come here in hopes of returning with wage arbitrage earnings. Federal enforced wages in Mexoco, including mandated healthcare, vacations, retirement, vacation, etc comes out to about $5 per day, $120 per month in most of the country.( Highly trained professionals, doctors, lawyers, CPA's, senior managers, may get $800 per month.) Most any worker from Mexico can move here and make 12 times more than they could in Mexico. Effectively in the eyes of the Mexican immigrant they are making 12X what they could in Mexico, sort of like paying $90 per hour for manual labor here instead of 7.50. That is why people from Mexico are viewed as such good workers here, they think they are getting paid more here.I imagine if we paid $90 per hour for laor many workers would jump to those jobs.

And many come for personal reasons. Criminals and failed entrepreneurs, people looking for a new start, people who have heard ythe poem at the base of the statue of liberty. My oldest European ancestor came because his wife had been drowned in the witch trials in England. She drowned which meant she was a good Christian but he seemed to take it as a sign that it was time to go.

Mark---I rellay don't buy your charitable arguments. Keep in mind, outside of religous offerings, most causes of charity in the USA are met by tax supported agency...health, food assistance, housing...take a look at the Declaration of Human rights. Many countries take those as being basic rights. The cause of giving is already served in those countries.
If you also deducted the money going to donor directed funds and private(versus public) foundations much of which is simply ego or business opportunity giving, there is actually very little gioing to truely charitable endeavors. Strikingly you might be amazed even in gross terms, that the bottom 90 percent of income groups give a much higher percentage of income than the richest 10%. If you analyzed that on disposable income the difference is staggering.

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDariel Garner

I don't really care the reasoning behind why people want to come to the US from other countries because in the end, most believe they will have an opportunity to be free and successful here and that desire exists based on individual choice. Some people may be in desperate circumstances, but no one is being forced to emigrate to the US with a literal gun to their head.

I find it extraordinarily interesting that you think that charity seems to revolve solely or primarily around money. I could name an entire list of ways in which people in this country give through non-monetary means. Americans give an extraordinary amount of time and energy to charitable causes in addition to donating their finances. Look at all the people who volunteer at hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters, animal shelters, police departments, fire departments, scouting groups, recycling programs, food panties, abuse shelters, youth sports programs, performing arts centers, childhood educational programs, disaster relief efforts and blood drives. Nowhere in the world gives as much in overall terms.

I'm always a little surprised by people who seem to want to make the US out as a diabolical regime. We've done some regrettable things as a nation but we've always managed to overcome our failings and persevere into a better future.

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

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