Monday, May 16, 2011

Box O' Soap

Sometimes people bug the heck out of me.
Since (hopefully) there are people reading this, I better explain myself.
A few things have been eating away at my last people-tolerance nerve the last couple weeks, and since I woud prefer to keep all my nerves if possible, I better get these outta here.
So here you are, Aubrey's pet peeves of the month!
(Part I of many)
Nerve eater number one: Idealizing America
Why do we indoctrinate ourselves and our young people with the idealization of the United States? Sure, it's a better place than many under-developed countries. Sure, it can be a place of opportunity and freedom. But it isn't perfect, and neither are its presidents, or its morals, or its environment. I've been thinking about this ever since attending the annual Hope of America Student Showcase sponsored by the Utah Freedom Festival. If you don't know what that is, it's a singing program of 5th graders from all around Utah where they sit in an American flag formation and sing patriotic songs.

Every song portrays the U.S.A. in its most idealistic form. The main theme "Hope of America" is the children saying that they are just that. They shout refrains of freedom, courage, and honor.
Too bad they don't believe it.
We're the hope of America...where there's hope there's America.
She's a land that we love...blessed from heaven above.
Please protect our rights and liberty.
We're the hope of America...stand and shout for America.
Where the brave, where the strong...where the dreams belong
The hope of America.

Call me cynical, but are they really living these words?  Or even thinking about them? I was once a participant in this program, and I was more concerned about doing the correct hand actions than applying the concepts I was vigorously voicing. And many of the ideals presented in this program are just plain false. Yes, these are the ideas America was founded on. Yes, there are people here who strive for these ideals of complete equality and there are those who actually have a sense of respect for self and country. But the fact is, these ideals don't define us, because they aren't absolute.
One of the songs I can actually appreciate a little bit is "Thank You Military". We really don't respect our military enough. We don't appreciate them enough. We don't show our thanks to them enough. And we really don't understand what they go through. In fact, when these kids are singing Thank you military, our country's proud of you, we are all so grateful for everything you do, I doubt any of them has the least idea of what that means. I can't really speak for anyone in the military, because I haven't experienced it myself, but I don't really know what this would mean to them. It feels good to gain recognition, but a slight "yay military" without any depth or real understanding just isn't as meaningful as what they deserve.
So while programs like this are fine and dandy, and parents enjoy them, I think that kids should really understand what they're saying. Growing up thinking that the founding fathers were perfect, and that Abraham Lincoln was perfect, and that America is perfect only leads to disappointment later on. Last year in my AP U.S. History class I learned that everything I thought I knew of our history from elementary school wasn't one-sided, that America isn't always right, and basically that all of my preconceived notions were false. And frankly, I was upset at our education system. I don't know what to do about it. I'm not claiming to have a solution. But I am saying that there's a problem with thinking the U.S.A. is more perfect than it really is. How can we solve problems when we don't acknowledge that they're there?
So there you go, the cynical thoughts of a disappointed teenager.
But don't worry, I'm not trying to upset anyone. I just want to encourage people think about this more. So, what do you think? Is it better to make kids think the world is better than it is only to disappoint them later, or is it better to raise them knowing the truth but having little hope for the future?
Catch ya later, pal.

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