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There is no entitlement to peace

April 16, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
“Don’t feel entitled just because you’re an American.”

Those words stood out like a dagger on my Facebook newsfeed Monday night, amidst the near-endless stream of the usual outpouring of grief stuff that Americans (my friends among them) feel it necessary to do every time there is the remotest sad event somewhere in the nation. The pictures of candles with various words of support for Boston were on the feed seemingly before the smoke had cleared, causing me to wonder briefly if an out-of-work graphic artist set off the darned bombs Monday in Boston.

“Don’t feel entitled just because you’re an American.”

The words sent me back to a college classroom where a couple of pals and I had cornered our card-carrying Commie poly-sci prof. We were discussing the shooting down of Korean Air Flight 007 over the Sea of Japan in 1983. Among the dead was a sitting U.S. Congressman.

After we had The Doc backed in pretty good, or so Danny, Vince and I figured (and I’ll leave off last names, they know who they are), the good professor, normally great at arguing with us with a smile on his face, blew up.

“People are dying all over the world every day and you guys don’t get upset over that,” he said.

I recall being a little miffed at him.

But now, for the first time in decades, I thought about it.

A friend, Cyril the Canadian (I think of him in that biblical name-location way), once said something similar to me after we each had enjoyed some fermented barley malt and hops many years ago (it takes much less barley malt and hops to get me philosophical these days). I had remarked about how Canadians I’ve encountered always seem so gentlemanly and real. He responded that Americans spend too much time thinking about themselves and how special they are, thus leading to the image of the Ugly American around the world.

“Don’t feel entitled just because you’re an American.”

The words hurt because they ring a lot deeper than all those Facebook candles. No offense to those who feel connected in some way by posting such things, and there never is anything wrong with saying a prayer. I did that, too.

But people do die every day around the world. The difference is that in the United States of America, we’ve been focused on the civility of society, the preservation of a law-abiding way of life. People with “causes” were outside the norm. But people with “causes” all around the world all have families, brothers, sisters, daughters and mothers and fathers. It’s when the “cause” is bigger than those loved ones in their mind that things get violent.

Americans now are as focused on individual “causes” as on the cause of a civil society where points are discussed, not set off as smoking exclamation points at an athletic event. If you think about it, its the reason nothing ever changes in Washington. Indeed, the United States of America was founded by people with a cause.

Of course, the Founding Fathers' cause was collective and about forming a civil society, a nation based on freedoms that now are interpreted to enable every individual with their own cause or an anti-American cause to set off a bomb at a marathon finish line.

We’re not entitled to peace at all.


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