Maybe it’s the memories I have of the 1980s.
Maybe it’s the death of Whitney Houston.
Maybe it’s the Kia commercial with Motley Crue and the band’s 1989 single “Kickstart My Heart” – you know, the song that came out when the commercial’s other star, Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima, was 8 years old.
More likely, it’s the wish that we Americans really were just like everyone else, which ironically queues in my mind another blast from the past, the feel-good single “We Are The World.”
That’s because, as I’ve watched the recent news from around the globe, I’ve come to an undeniable conclusion: We aren’t the world.
At least we in America aren’t much like the rest of the world, and that’s mostly a good thing.
While we argue about our need to reclaim something we’ve lost, or to add something we’ve never had, only 34 percent of us believe the U.S. is headed in the right direction.
Still, we’re going about the heated discussions in far better ways than other countries.
We have something other countries don’t. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but consider some contrasts.
First, look at the Occupy Wall Street movement versus popular protests in the Middle East.
In America, we might have a few people arrested and dragged off public property.
In Syria, during the past week, dozens, if not scores, have been killed daily by their own government.
The Occupy Wall Street protesters have the spine to stand – or sit – with their convictions, but they know their rights. The cops can only do so much. Lawyers will be readily available.
In Syria and in other Middle Eastern countries, popular protests don’t face ridicule from conservative radio talk show hosts and a possible trip to the city jail. Instead, they face live ammunition, military grade weapons, and unaccountable, powerful leaders who value their positions more than human life.
We aren’t the world.
Consider the financial difficulties we’re having in the United States. The sensible Simpson-Bowles plan has been more or less ignored, and politicians are debating about what to cut and whether to raise taxes.
Meanwhile, after years of being coddled by their own government – a government that required sweet employment benefits – the Grecian people responded to unavoidable cutbacks with riots and arson. "Athens Burns,” screamed The Drudge Report’s headline this past weekend.
We aren’t the world.
In England, last year’s riots, fires, and muggings might have struck a sympathetic chord among some Americans, but we’re still not expressing our concerns with a comparable level of destruction. At least not recently.
What’s probably worse is the less dramatic, yet equally disturbing, ubiquity of surveillance cameras in England. Sure, we have surveillance cameras, but not quite everywhere, not quite like England. As I’ve said in a previous column, I was surprised by the incredible number of cameras – everywhere – during my recent trips to the motherland. How could I not become self-conscious of every move I made? I was always being watched.
Something makes us different. Smarty-pants types and egg-head intellectuals might want to hose down my patriotism, but I’m not exactly waving a flag and chanting “We’re number one!” I’m just saying, look around – we aren’t the world. Really.
-Colin Foote Burch