A Need for National Humility

On a personal level, I think most people can identify when someone has a problem with self-esteem in either direction. There’s the people who are always down on themselves, no matter what. You want to pick them up and tell them everything’s going to be okay. That they should go easier on themselves. Chin up!

But then there’s the people who are so full of themselves, they have a hard time recognizing anything they do wrong. They’re so prideful it damages their relationships, and handling them is a big pain in the patootie.

As I was thinking about the (many) political issues we’re having as Americans these days, one thought drifted to the surface: many of those problems could be handled with more national humility. Excessive pride is seen by many as a character flaw on an individual level; why can’t we recognize it as a problem on a national level as well?

I don’t mean to say we can’t be “proud to be American,” and I’m sure that’s where many might want to take my argument as soon as they hear it. I love my country, and I think we have a lot of wonderful things we do. But I also think it’s important to be able to take a frank look at yourself and realize there are areas that need improvement. Change.

Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan has played entirely into this nationalistic pride vein, fanning the flames of pride to a point that’s not just delusional, it’s unsafe for the global political landscape. Yet I can understand why so many people fall for it. We have a tendency, as a country, to constantly tell ourselves how wonderful we are, even when we’re not. We’ll talk about how our health care is the best. Our education is the best. Our freedoms are the best. Our sports are the best. And never mind any actual data that might get in the way of our opinions.

When you think you’re the absolute best at something, you have no incentive to improve. There’s no need to look to anyone else for an example. No need to consider alternative solutions to a problem. You can just say “I’m the best,” and ignore the rest, which is something Trump has built his entire life around.

Not that this is a problem isolated to one man, though he’s certainly an outgrowth of it. A natural result of decades of an absence of humility on a national level. After all, our nation elected the man. Yes, the election was influenced in various ways, but to me that’s sort of like complaining about the end result of a football game because of some very questionable calls by the refs. You might have a wonderful point, but in the end, it’s not going to change the scoreboard. And if your team was so mighty to begin with, how did they get in a position where one or two boneheaded calls cost them the game?

Trump has already begun to lay the foundation for an argument if he loses the election in 2020. Essentially, he’s telling his adherents the only way he *can* lose is if the Democrats cheat. If they have millions of people vote illegally. And there’s a huge problem with this argument if people believe it. The next natural step is to say, “I don’t have to step down as President, because I actually won.” And if enough people believe that’s true, bad things happen. Civil wars. Just because it hasn’t happened in America in over a hundred years doesn’t mean it can’t happen again.

And the sad thing is I’m not sure the Republican party wouldn’t support his claim. They’ve already shown a readiness to embrace Trump’s rhetoric and ideologies as long as it gets them what they want. “The end justifies the means” seems to have become the rallying cry for many of my fair-minded Republican friends. “What what he does, not what he says” is another one.

But in the end, it’s not worth it to me. I will not support someone who says and acts like Trump, just because some of his professed beliefs or goals might overlap with mine.

My hope is that we can begin to have more national humility. That we can recognize our flaws and stop plugging our ears and shouting about how wonderful we are in every way. If we can do that, as Republicans and Democrats and Independents, then we have a chance of righting the ship and making America nice again. Compassionate again. And maybe even great again.

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