It's human - and fun and rewarding - to have personal opinions and personal likes and dislikes. It would be a pretty boring world if everybody had to like the same things. We don't seem to have any trouble with personal likes or dislikes when it involves the arts or recreation, because I doubt that there is anybody who is just one thing. You may really like Stravinsky, but you probably don't consider yourself a Stravinskyist, and you probably don't find it impossible to appreciate Bach or Ravel. You may like Andy Warhol, but that doesn't preclude your having considerable understanding and appreciation for the more traditional painters. Why then, when it comes to economics, politics and organized religion, do we have to consider ourselves just one thing? While there may be some merit in labeling ourselves (although I don't know what that merit might be), no thinking person believes exactly what the hypothetical perfect Baptist, Christian Reformed, Conservative Republican, Liberal Democrat, Capitalist, Socialist, or Communist believes. Would you vote a straight ticket in an election, even when you know the person running for senator is a serial killer, just because you are "a Democrat?"

  I've lived my entire life in the United States, and probably 90 percent or more of what I think I know about the world has been learned through the filters of being "an American" (actually, a UnitedStatesian - there really are other "Americans" who don't think like us). I used to think our socio-politico-economic system is -- at least in concept -- "the best in the world." I still think it is one of the best. But at various times in our short existence (and now perhaps more strongly than ever), the United States has flown a banner that seems to be equal parts Stars and Stripes, Christian Cross, and Dow Jones Average. I can't salute that flag without some feelings of confusion, sadness, and loss. I can't overlook the great wrongs that UnitedStatesism has perpetrated - and is still perpetrating -- on ourselves and the world: unequal distribution of wealth, hogging of natural resources, discrimination and bigotry, life-threatening climate change, unjust wars, to name only a few. My beliefs also doesn't allow me to overlook that some other countries and governments have better -- in fact, more "christian" -- ways than we do of perceiving and responding to the various needs of their people and the rest of the world.




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