Monday, November 22, 2010

Thoughts On a Subject

Okay, everyone brace yourself. I wouldn't call this talking politics, but something I watched a few weeks ago got me thinking.

A few weeks ago, Jimmy Carter was on Real Time With Bill Maher, episode 195. Growing up in Georgia, I revered this man from an early age. When I was younger the favorable attitude was because he's from Georgia, and because I like peanuts. Now I realize what a wise, smart, kind person he is. Some people may disagree. I know his presidency had problems. I'm more focused on what he's done since 1980, and it's a lot. He's done some amazing things for this country and for humanity.

When he was on Bill Maher, he said something that particularly resonated with me. I can't find a transcript or a video of his appearance, unfortunately. He was promoting his book of recollections from his time in the White House (White House Diaries). The book has some very honest, and surprisingly off-putting passages, but on the show (and everytime I've heard him speak), he has talked with a humility and brilliance that I wish were valued by more people.

President Carter was talking about our rampant consumerism, and the prevalent attitude that we are entitled to everything that's available. He said that too many people in our society believe they have a "special privilege on earth", "don't need to sacrifice anything" and can "waste what [they] want with impunity". Some people use the phrase "American Exceptionalism" to describe this mindset (though others consider American Exceptionalism to mean we're different because of our democratic process, judicial system, etc., not "privileged" or superior. Even Wikipedia can't come to a consensus). I would argue that we're not different--we're all human. President Carter was lamenting the notion that we're above everyone else. That we somehow deserve more than other people. We don't.

We are no more special or entitled than anyone else on this earth. If anything, it's the humble and unassuming attitude of some of this country's citizens that most represents the American spirit to me.

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