By Abe Villarreal
All my life I've heard that I was lucky to live in the greatest country in the world. Hearing something like this makes a kid feel special. What did I do to be blessed in this way? I live in a place that is better than all the rest in the entire world. That’s something.
Hearing this is great for me, but what about the kids that live in those other not-as-great-as-America-places? When we speak like this, we trick ourselves into believing that we are better than others. And once we believe this, we begin to act like we are better than others.
Growing up on the Mexican-American border, I have had many opportunities to see two different worlds. On the other side, kids grow up in homes made of beat up wood pallets. They wear the same clothing for days. They drop out of school at young ages to find work. The little they earn; they use to support their families.
The kind of work they do is any kind, including the kinds that we would never imagine, or “bring ourselves down” to doing. Come to think of it, us Americans are different. We tell ourselves that we deserve better, so we act like it.
Old cars, they aren’t for us. We want to turn in our car after a year or two of use. Big homes, they aren’t big enough. We want the biggest one on the block. The shanties that make humble homes for millions across the world would never be suitable. We are different as Americans.
When we lose our jobs, the government should be there to support us. Picking up a short-term job as a housekeeper or a hamburger flipper is out of the question. We are different as Americans.
When we have little in our pockets, we spend it on ourselves. We don’t save it or send it to families that need our support. We are different as Americans.
Waiting in line at the local soup kitchen is degrading and beneath us. That kind of behavior is for drunks and uneducated fellas that made poor life decisions. We know better. It’s not the American way.
In some countries, the elderly are taken care of at home by the younger generation. There is reverence for those that came before us. Family leaders don’t spend their free time working extra hours in the office, they use it to take care of those that lived long enough to give them everything.
Don’t get me wrong. I love America. I love the values that make most Americans good, hard working people. I love the open spaces and the tiny towns that interrupt them even if it’s just with one street intersection. I love the concrete jungles that are our big cities full of energy, ideas, and innovation. I love the statue of liberty and the unforgettable statement she makes to everyone that can see her.
But one thing we aren’t as Americans - is better. What makes us weak and wrong can be found anywhere. What makes us beautiful and strong can be found everywhere.
From the village leader in the most remote corners of Africa, to the garment seller in the busy streets of China, we are all the same. We aren’t better.