I'm an, uh, an...I'm an Internationalist. There, I said it. Whew. That's a relief.
Wait, no, no, it's not what you think. No, it wasn't anything you did. You were great, fine parents, and I love you deeply. This is just...who I am, who I feel God created me to be.
I have to admit, those missions trips I went on in high school and college...all that getting out into the world and sort of, I guess, experimenting...well, it made me see some things differently. It made me see myself differently. I suppose you could say that it's an urge I've been suppressing for a long time, but when it comes down to it...why fight it anymore? I mean, it's what I love. It's who I love. That's what changed me. I realized that love wasn't just restricted to Americans or British or developed countries. I guess my perspective on Love just...shifted...I hope you can accept that. I love who I love, regardless of where they're from or how much money they have in their pocket or their country's relationship to my country. That's my love, and I hope you can see that.
One of the many blogs I follow recently posted this lovely series of clips from Christian Conservative Radio in Minnesota. It contains much of the common anti-homosexual talk so common nowadays, the type of talk that is so unloving that, when I hear it, I tend to just shake my head in sadness and walk away. I still listen, so that I can put things into some context and understand what is being said on the other side (and I'm getting better at listening without getting angry), so I was surprised when the thing that jumped out at me was not their praise of Malawi's imprisonment of a gay couple, nor the discussion of how Muslim nations handle homosexuality. Instead, it was the imprecations against a member of Amnesty International's take on the prevalence of anti-gay laws.
Before they even quoted what she had to say, they commented (with a tone of derision and disgust in their voices), that this was someone from Amnesty International, "so you know already that she's an Internationalist."
Not being a regular listener of the show, the comment intrigued me. "Internationalist" - what does that even mean? From the tone in which it was said, and the offhand way this comment was thrown out, I had to assume that it was something discussed on the show before, and something that was conceivably quite negative.
The implications behind "Internationalist" being an insult and an imprecation of character strike me as more disheartening and frightening than all the anti-gay talk that surrounds it. To be an Internationalist (and I am having to make an assumption here, but I think it is reasonably supported by tone and context), seems to mean someone who looks beyond the borders of America and works for people regardless of national origin. Judging from the context, I don't doubt it might also mean someone who doesn't see national boundaries at all - one of those silly "We Are the World" types, who believes that America is no more blessed by God than say, India or Iraq or Japan.
That seems to be dangerous thinking for these particular radio hosts - an implication that America is not God's chosen people, that the American way is not the only way, that the principles of our Constitution may not be the end all be all of values, life, and government, is dangerous to their position. If America is not everything they say it is - if America is not chosen and blessed by God and therefore the paragon of liberty, if other nations are just as important - then their hardline stances on many issues need to be rethought and challenged.
It might mean (God forbid!) that America's government and Constitution are just as flawed and problematic as anyone other nation's and therefore some things may have to actually change in order to become better.
It might mean opening their eyes to the idea that, despite being the nation of liberty and freedom, we have created a situation in which our liberty and freedom are costing others their lives. Our desire to "live as we want without intrusion," to "live as God commands" (in their interpretation, not mine), might be taking a toll on the rest of the world. But surely, if we're the best nation on earth and the only one that matters, then those foolish "Internationalists" have to be wrong...right?
This conflation of God and State worries me. And no, I'm not talking about separation of Church and State - that's another matter entirely. I'm talking about seeing the State as God, which seems to be precisely the error that these particular radio talk show hosts are making. Because America is the Christian nation founded on Biblical principles by Christian men (a claim disputed by many a learned historian), then the State is simply another arm of God. This leads to comments like Glenn Beck's inflammatory comments that the Constitution is divinely inspired, this leads to the blindness that seems to occupy both sides of the homosexual marriage issue, leads to the uplifting and praising of rather arbitrary political boundaries that are a post-Enlightenment development.
It seems to be a refusal to see the bigger picture - that America, though young and powerful, is a teenager on the world stage, and frequently acts as such.
Being an Internationalist, then, seems to be the only way to survive. To realize that people are people no matter where they come from is incredibly important. When we complain about Obama bowing to the leader of another nation, we cut ourselves off from the idea of actually understanding another person. When we say that "we don't negotiate with terrorists" and use it as an excuse not to be diplomatic in situations that call for diplomacy, we fail to actually be God's nation in the world, the kind that loves its neighbor and tries to make the decision that would be best for all.
I've been thinking about this sort of thing a lot since coming to Japan. As much as I try not to be the Ugly American, I do have trouble with some things, and am probably unintentionally rude quite often. But, making an effort to learn and grasp Japanese culture also means that I am making an effort to see the Japanese as people, and not just some foreign group. There are numerous things that are immensely confusing in Japanese culture, at least to the American mindset. But, I wouldn't get very far if I just said, "Well that's not how we do it in America," and left it at that.
That might make me an Internationalist. If that's the case, then so be it. I'm fine with a label that means I'm making an effort to make the world a better place, rather than just sitting back and yelling "HELL NO" out of one side of my mouth and saying praises to God out of the other.
So, American Nation, I hope you understand. I hope you can bring yourself to look at America more critically in the future, and maybe get into the 21st century with the rest of us. It's 2010, baby, why are we even having this discussion?!