Embarrassed to be an American?
A friend felt that it was extreme for me to say I was “embarrassed” to be an American. Obviously, this comment bothered me enough to write this response, which I hope illustrates that you can love a country and still be embarrassed.
I said, “at times,” not all the time, but that nuance did not seem to matter. It struck me as strange. Certainly, I have been embarrassed at my own actions many times in my life. Why is it bad to be embarrassed to be an American? Let’s explore the meaning, or list of synonyms, of embarrass: mortify · shame · · humiliate · abash · chagrin · make uncomfortable · make self-conscious · discomfit · disconcert · discompose · upset · distress.
Let’s take these synonyms and see if it makes more sense.
Am I distressed, made uncomfortable, by both a president and population that is willing to say and then defend the things Trump does—the representative of our country? That only a dying senator and two others not running for reelection find their principles? Yes. Yes I am.
Let’s take “upset.”
Am I upset that the cornerstone of our democracy, the freedom of speech, is under attack? To quote Teddy Roosevelt: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” Yet, if one says anything bad about Trump and you are well known at all, you get death threats, or even you get Trump saying maybe we’ll pull your FCC license for broadcasting. I am upset…dare I say it “embarrassed.”
Many times, I hear “but look at country XYZ, we are so lucky.” Of course we are. But, that “luck” is only as good as we make it. If one is not “made self-conscious” by changes in the wrong direction, then we risk becoming country XYZ. Embarrassment is when one knows better and then does the wrong thing. One is not embarrassed for your country when the country has no history of acting right. The look at country XYZ is also, of course, bad logic. It is both false equivalency and a bit of “really, you want to set the bar that low?”
When we appoint people with no scientific background into positions in scientific organizations who deny everything from global warming to dangers of chemicals to the earthquakes and contaminated water due to fracking, I am “embarrassed” (mortified · shamed · · discomfited · disconcerted · · upset · distressed).
When the cornerstone of stability for the western world—NATO—is disparaged and verbally tossed aside, I am “embarrassed” (mortified · shamed · · discomfited · disconcerted · · upset · distressed).
When the cornerstone of friendly relations on our continent, NAFTA, is disparaged and has the potential of being tossed out and when I see the party that has always been about free trade, pro-business, and economics (the Republicans) sit by idly and allow it, I am “embarrassed” (mortified · shamed · · discomfited · disconcerted · · upset · distressed).
When I, the son of an immigrant, see the number of refugees we allow in the U.S. reduced to a pittance (how generous is that) compared to what other countries that are much smaller than the U.S. I am “embarrassed” (mortified · shamed · · discomfited · disconcerted · · upset · distressed).
When I see the symbol of our country Tweet over 1500 significant lies in less than one year and see his party sit by and do nothing, I am “embarrassed” (mortified · shamed · · discomfited · disconcerted · · upset · distressed).
When I see the top 1/10th of 1 percent (yes 0.01) of the of the U.S. owning the same as the bottom 90% of wealth in the U.S., I am “embarrassed” (mortified · shamed · discomfited · disconcerted · · upset · distressed). I am further embarrassed when the billionaire president then surrounds himself with other billionaires to run the government.
When I see America ranked WORST among democracies (Electoral Integrity Project) and ranked 21st on the Democracy Index (Economist) I am VERY “embarrassed” (mortified · shamed · · discomfited · disconcerted · upset · distressed).
Does that mean that I don’t want to improve the U.S.? No. Does it mean that I don’t think that I am lucky to be in the U.S. versus, for instance, Venezuela. No. I am very lucky.
The BAR is other democracies and the BAR is where the U.S. has been in the past. By this bar, I am often currently embarrassed to be an American and feel it is time to do something about it.