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June 21, 2005

Who Do You Represent? Who/What Gets Your Loyalty? « Social Issues »

Long-time readers know I'm interested in China and have traveled there several times. I go to a Chinese church and have contact with people from another culture there every week. I've deployed overseas with the Air Force several times as well.

One thing is very clear to me in every interaction with foreign nationals: everything I say and do will be taken as a reflection of America, white males, Chiristians, and US military (not necessarily in that order). And maybe a few other things as well.

I can't control their assumptions.

I can't cause them to take my words/actions as just a white Christian male from the US, and ignore the military part. Or a Christian servicemember from the US, ignoring the white male part. Not only can I not control it, I usually cannot even know what they are seeing and assuming.

When overseas, or when interacting with a foreign national, it is very clear to me that the future repercussions and impacts of the meeting are impossible to know. An inadvertant mistake could leave an bad impression that makes things worse for all Americans, and American strategic interest.

And so at the back of my mind, always present, I remember that there is something more important than me: my family back home, and the nation they live in, including the economy, their employment, their energy needs, their unit, which might someday be fighting a battle and need every advantage to win support from the civilian foreign nationals in the area.

It is very clear to me that my loyalty to my nation is greater than to myself. It is very clear to me that my own likes, dislikes, annoyances, needs, etc, aren't all that important, to an extent. And yet, despite all these restrictions, I still have expansive freedom.

I have the freedom to be pleasant. I have the freedom to be friendly. I have the freedom to return insults with smiles. I have the freedom to be flexible, and to try and understand other cultures and their point of view.

That's why I find "The Ugly American" so irritating. That's why I find the military officer who decided she wasn't going to wear a burqa to be so infuriating. That's why I find Dick Durbin to be such an unmitigated jerk.

When you are in another country, you are in someone's home. You may not like the food they eat, or their customs, but you are in their home, and you should learn to fit in. You shouldn't demand others change to meet your assumptions and demands. And even more importantly, you should be friendly, flexible, patient, kind, generous, and slow to anger. Wait until you get home, close the door, and rant about the idiocy of the foreigners if you must, but don't take it out on an actual person. Not only is that an excellent lesson in patience, but you spread good will with every encounter.

When you are in the military, you have signed on to be a warrior for the US' interests. Complaining about something being "demeaning to women" is placing your own culture on such a high level of importance that it must be imposed on others in their own home...that's more than a little selfish. I hate wearing some of the uniforms, particularly dress uniforms. They are uncomfortable, and I'm since I have to "set them up" (Put on all the ribbons in the right location, right order, even and square) so rarely, I'm scared to death of not doing it right and bringing some minor measure of dishonor to my service. But when I have to, I do it. I don't care if I had to wear a bear suit every day to work to please some third-world nation's sense of morality; if the military requires it, I do it. If I can't do it, I am obligated to resign my commission and get out. Or, if it is a legal order, I am required to comply and then take action after the fact. Refusing to wear the burqa is selfishness, pettiness, and placing an agenda above the needs of the military and the US' strategic interests.

And the negative comments about our military by Democrat leaders...[shakes head]. Dick Durbin is getting the attention more recently, but it started long ago. Remember Patty Murray's argument that Osama bin Laden was loved for the good he did in Afghanistan and we should try to be like Osama (and then when given a chance to back that up, she voted against funding to help build schools, roads, and daycares in Afghanistan in a fit of typical Democrat hypocrisy)?

Leaders should lead. As such, they should consider who they are leading, and to where. As has been pointed out, there are ways Sen. Durbin could have criticized the Bush Administration's policies without giving aid and support to our enemies' propaganda system. Howard Dean should be able to find a way to say "Democrats Good" without having to resort to insulting (and wholly inaccurate) stereotypes of Republicans.

Do you ever think of who you represent? Do you ever suppress your natural reaction because of awareness of your status as a representative? Do the groups to which you belong get any of your loyalty, or do you consider your personal right to be a jerk to trump all other considerations? endeth the sermon. Heh.

Posted by Nathan at 10:10 AM | Comments (2)
» Mark in Mexico links with: 10,000 Angels will swear you were wrong

Very well said. I think that to a lesser extent it remains true for regions. I have little patience for those that come to this country for opporunity and do nothing but talk about how better their country (without the opportunities that brought them here) is, how backwards we are, and so on (lest anyone think I'm being racists, I'm generally referring to Canadians and Europeans). Not to mention out-of-towners and out-of-staters that move somewhere just to change it.

Right now I'm living in a very heavily Mormon part of the country. Part of me gets very frustrated with the difference in prevailing opinion about what constitutes immorality, what is fair, and so on. But you don't move somewhere to change it into the place you just left. If you're not willing to make certain changes or do certain things, either buck up and do it or don't put yourself in a situation where you're expected to.

Posted by: R. Alex at June 23, 2005 08:49 AM

Well said, and thanks for the assist.

Posted by: Nathan at June 23, 2005 10:17 AM
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