Πέμπτη, 2 Φεβρουαρίου 2012

America the Beautiful


I am forced nearly every day to acknowledge the pain and suffering America has caused in the world. It's broadcast on the news, spouted by friends and acquaintances at every gathering. Even the little second and third graders I work with have heard enough at home that they can bring things up in class. Of course their take on America's influence on the world can sometimes be hilariously wrong given the understanding a seven year old has on current events.
Needless to say this is not the America I knew growing up. And as when growing up we realize our parents are human and with feet of clay, so it's been for me with America. There is so much I would like America to change, to take responsibility for, not only in its foreign policy but in its policy towards its own citizens. And yet I still believe there's no place on earth like America, the opportunities it offers, the freedoms we enjoy, its beauty and comfort. I realize that's not true for everyone. But at least until recently, the percentage of people still able to enjoy America's opportunities has been higher than in most of the rest of the world.
This crisis which has hit Greece so hard has spread rapidly around the world. Greece didn't have very far to fall and is crashing quickly. Other countries like Germany, France and, yes, America have a lot further to fall. Just imagine the resounding crash if and when America hits bottom. It would be wonderful if the world could reassert itself and regain its balance before that happens. (It would be even better if it would happen before Greece comes apart at the seams.)
What would be really wonderful is if America could reinvent its image; if it could once again become the land of dreams come true, a leader in the care of its citizens, the purveyor of peace, an innovator in medicine, green energy, conservation, healthy food production - so many things we have the physical and people resources to accomplish and we seem to have lost our way in the search for money, things, convenience and comfort.
We're all citizens of this planet Earth, whether in Africa, Australia, Asia or America and it's my fervent wish we realize that sooner rather than later, while we still have time to correct our mistakes.

Τρίτη, 31 Ιανουαρίου 2012

Taking Responsibility

I have this sister - very much younger than me, extremely talented - especially in writing, very determined and self-disciplined - I could go on but why? We all have people like that in our lives that we love dearly but are a little jealous of. She's convinced that she and I are the Bronte sisters incarnate and she wants me to jumpstart the process of showing this to the world with writing a blog. She also believes I might have something to say that needs to be heard. And as I love her dearly and I really DO need to get out of this rut I'm in, I've decided to try it. So here goes world - An American in Athens.
I guess the thing that irritates me most about Greeks (and most everyone in the world) is that no one takes responsibility for anything. It's so much easier to blame someone else. Greeks have been blaming America for all their troubles since I first came here in 1977. They blamed America for not helping them after WWII which infuriated me because I know how much help we sent. But no one wanted to acknowledge that all that help was taken by a few 'enterprising' Greeks who sold it on the black market and made their fortunes.
There are some things that America has done which Greece is not responsible for, like their wars in Yugloslavia and Iraq. But the influence of violent American movies and all our American products? Greece was not required to or forced to bring these things to Greece. That's just one example of Greeks buying into the American mindset while at the same time deploring the influence of these things on the youth in Greece.
One thing impressed me about Obama last summer with all the idiocy going on with Republicans and Democrats and the budget. He said that ultimately, as the President, he was responsible - the buck stopped at his desk in the Oval Office. Whether events have borne this out or not, just the fact of his saying it publicly is something we don't see - ever.
This economic crisis, which is becoming world-wide? Yes, Goldman-Sachs is responsible for A LOT of it. But Greeks (and people everywhere) are responsible too. Just because loans are available doesn't mean you have to take one out. And just because TVs and cars are within our grasp now doesn't mean everyone has to have 3 TVs and an SUV (to drive around Athens?). Overspending, consumerism and no long-range planning has brought Greece to its knees. Strikes and the destruction of rioting has killed whatever chance Greece had to recover. And these things people - individuals - could be responsible for. Just because you CAN cheat someone doesn't mean you have to. When are we going to say - The Buck Stops Here?!