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The Importance of Being Arrogant

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Message Jan Baumgartner
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Like so many these days, I embrace my umbrella of arrogance, my God given right as an American to be uncompromisingly delusional and all knowing. It is a wonderful thing, this arrogance: this exaggerated sense of superiority that not only lets me rest well at night, but offers a great deal of comfort borne of omnipotence. While being better than everyone (and God knows) far more righteous than the rest of the world, it does come with great responsibility, and at times, a price. On these nights, I tend not to rest as well. Even under my security blanket of arrogance, occasionally I worry that others are too slow to come around, to understand that to be truly blessed, they must accept our beliefs and customs. If only everyone could have been born an American.

While we are a young country, God seems to think we got it right and has rewarded us with many great riches, so many beautiful, wonderful toys. Certainly, most ancient cultures and civilizations would benefit greatly if they simply adopted our way of interpreting things. Just look at us: everything is bigger and better, Hummers and McMansions, and so much food on our plates we can barely get it all down without choking, or choose to feed it to the dogs, or better yet, throw it away. We even have bigger waistlines than most of the world, thanks to all that excess. It feels good to live in a disposable, arrogant society and I wish others could see it that way. It is most satisfying to be a super power. Why then, is everyone else so slow to come around? So anti-American? Envy, naturally. It is a tough fight, but when you're right, you're right.

Arrogance, too, offers more than just tangible excess. It affords us the right and will to impose our beliefs on what we deem as the unstable parts of the globe. The "others" of the world who in their oftentimes backward and barbaric cultures, not only live in squalor, but without good judgment and morals, embracing corrupt governments and unsavory lifestyles. While we do not condone their immoral, depraved and ignorant ways, we still do all we can to give them the opportunities for a better life. In our multitude of sanctimonious moments, we even offer birth control to lessen the nightmare of AIDS and overpopulation, but only if garnered through church or faith-based organizations. After all, we are trying to bring goodness into their lives - some small ray of hope. Unfortunately for us, there are many times when yet again, we must bale peoples out by destroying their cities, cultures, livelihoods and families, all in order to impose justice and democracy, the American way of life. And most seem to understand. There will always be those few who do not, the detractors and troublemakers, or as we know them to be, the terrorists.

As Americans, we do everything in our power to weed them out, to destroy their strongholds and followers. And, if a few innocents, or countries, are caught in the crossfire, it is for the best, peace and justice, after all. Yes, there will be bodies littering dimly lit hospital wards, little faces and limbs stitched up like crude leather bags, but it has to be. Infrastructures will be obliterated, families torn apart, refugees trailing into foreign lands with nothing more than memories and dust in their shoes, but as the past has shown, it is necessary. Americans know and accept this - we are strong folk - collective punishment is sometimes the only way to a brighter future for others.

Arrogance is really a soft and lovely catchall. It serves us up a blind eye whenever we wish not to see. It is far easier to be complicit from the sidelines than to get our own hands dirty, but if push comes to shove, we have no problem getting messy. We can always clean ourselves up. But sometimes we just need to relax - not focus on the troubled parts of the world. To fade out the images of nine year old boys working sixteen hour days in parts of Africa, mining the precious minerals to create our cell phones, while barely earning enough to feed themselves a single meal. To press mute the cries of hundreds of thousands of homeless, fleeing, persecuted men, women, and children. To fast-forward the Starving Children and AIDS channels. Them, not us, thank God.

It is by no accident that Americans understand the importance of being arrogant. We teach our children early on the very basics, the A-E-I-O-U's of survival and success and world domination. A is for Arrogance (naturally). E is for Excess (only one of our God-given rights). I is for Ignorance (or Indifference, our choice depending on how we're feeling on any given day). O is for Oblivious (if we are feeling a little insecure about our measure of Indifference). And U (best of all) - is for U.S. - or US. Because as we Americans know, US is all that matters. We reign supreme. Or as Mel Brooks said it best in History of the World, "It's good to be da King."
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Jan Baumgartner is the author of the memoir, Moonlight in the Desert of Left Behind. She was born near San Francisco, California, and for years lived on the coast of Maine. She is a writer and creative content book editor. She's worked as a grant (more...)

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