Tomorrow has come and I am recalling my trip to Panama when I was 8 years old. I don’t know what possessed me to be the “ugly American” while I was there, but I’m disgusted with myself now as I look back on my behavior.
It was the summer of 1963, I made a poster out of a large piece of white paper my grandmother gave me, probably thinking I was going to do a little bit of drawing. Instead, I wrote in English, with a bold colored crayon, “I AM AN AMERICAN!” Then I held it draped over the second floor balcony of my grandparent’s house in the poor small city of Colon for all to see who walked on the sidewalk below or in the park across the street. I didn’t speak Spanish, but I read the smiles on their faces that whispered, “isn’t that cute.”
My motive may have been a declaration of my superiority, or I thought being an American in a foreign country made me a celebrity. I really don’t recall, but I do remember the later embarrassment I felt as an adult. Where that feeling of superiority came from I don’t know. Was it propaganda from the media, the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance? I always believed that the United States was the greatest nation in the world and that everyone wanted to come here, after all, it seemed like everyone was coming here.
In first grade, we had to practice duck and cover drills in case of a communist attack from the Soviet Union. We were told by the Sisters of the Presentation that if the enemy arrived we were to stay silent and pray to Mother Mary to protect us. We practiced by exiting the classroom and kneeling down in the dark hallway with our hands clasped and heads bowed.
So why do we go to war? The more I research US history the more I realize that the times and the leadership of the time dictate the reasons for war. Even the sentiments of the public at the time influenced and still influences decisions made on Capital Hill. There is never just one reason, nor always the same reason. I use to think the reason was “to protect the freedom of the American people”. That’s pretty simple until you ask yourself WHAT freedom? What does THAT mean? And how is my freedom in jeopardy?