As I continue to read about fighting factions, suicide bombers, and other coordinated violence in the Middle East, I couldn’t help but notice that here in the melting pot, we have different religions, races, sexual orientations, political parties, and any other separating qualifier one might think of, yet we don’t habitually have these problems.
The KKK and Black Panthers have not blown each other up. The Westboro Baptists haven’t open fired on a gay club. To my knowledge, a physical altercation hasn’t even broke out in Congress. There’s little doubt that many of these people are vehemently opposed to one another, yet they somehow find a way to coexist and get on with their lives instead of declaring jihad and strapping a bottle rocket to their petoot in a crowded square.
I am fascinated with human behavior and love analyzing people’s actions, and I think there are obvious reasons for the difference.
Our Constitution is a unique governing document in that it derives its power from the people. Most others grant power to the people. This philosophy has been taught in every American history class since America has had history.
There are instinctual behaviors, such as eating, procreating, avoiding pain; these do not need to be taught. I believe freedom is instinctual too. While many countries try to quash that instinct, in America, the instinct that we are free, with “inalienable rights” has been reinforced in all of us, and, for that reason, we expect a non-tyrannical lifestyle. If someone tries to deny you your instincts, you fight back. We know if you try to take your own life while holding your breath, the instinct of self-preservation won’t even let you harm yourself. Your instincts literally fight off your conscious decisions. So it’s little wonder why the oppressed are always fighting with each other.
If we don’t like our leaders, we just “vote the bums out.” Revolutions are not necessary. We tried it once and learned our lesson. As much as many of us don’t care for Obama, I doubt any sane detractor has considered throwing Molotov cocktails at the White House or taking up arms against our military. Tyranny is something our leaders dip their toes into on occasion but know well and good not to take a few laps around the pool. Such behavior has never been tolerated here.
People in the Middle East however, generally have no concept of what it is like to be free. As a result of this constant beating into submission, they eventually have to strike back with force or nothing changes.
When people are free, it is common sense to understand that such freedoms extend to all of us, including overtly ignorant and hateful people such as the Westboro Baptists, KKK, Black Panthers, Neo-Nazis, etc. While I think these organizations are deplorable, if I meet one, I generally just give them that “You really are an idiot” look and move on. Unconcealing my carry conceal has never entered my mind. We both just walk away realizing the other “will never understand.”
Science and skepticism play a huge role in our understanding culture as well. While America is largely religious, even those who are devout in their faith still often embrace science. For instance, many believers place their trust in doctors using proven science when they or their children are ill. The idea that maybe God has simply bestowed scientific understanding upon them allows science and religion to peacefully coexist for most of the faithful masses.
Skepticism is important too. If someone came up to you and told you that God wants you to kill your neighbor, most people would likely call 911 and ask them to send the white-coated tailors who always make the sleeves too long.
Religion may be important, but in America, we put a premium on human life, and since the Salem witch trials, we rarely kill in the name of any God. But in the Middle East, many are taught that killing for their God is honorable and justified; and they buy into it wholeheartedly.
The fact is that constitutionally-provided freedoms have gone well beyond just their written words. These paradigms allow us to have freedom of the mind, scientific research, and as mentioned earlier, the choice to be a moron. No one among us wants to be a hypocrite, and most of us know that if I allow you to be a Christian, you must allow me to be an atheist.
Freedom of the mind allows one to think whatever they want, no matter how stupid it is. A good example is the 9/11 truthers. Several college science programs, a myriad of science publications, and the majority of the science community, even many who REALLY detested President Bush, have come out and said that this conspiracy is the work of small minds with big imaginations; they’ve done the research to prove it. While those of us with intelligence know better, the fact is, sometimes you have to let an idiot alone with their beliefs, and Americans are largely OK with that. In the Middle East, you’d be executed for making such accusations about your government, but in America, you get an interview with Rosie O’Donnell.
Freedom of scientific research, while not in the Constitution, is still a product of our overall paradigm, and it’s the main reason human life expectancy has nearly doubled in just a few centuries. Radical faiths often prohibit scientific research because it brings the concept of their god into question. But now it’s a conversation intelligent minds on both sides of the fence discuss daily without incident. While some believers complain about specific research, it is more often settled at the voting booth than at the end of the sword.
So why do we get along when they don’t? Short answer—Freedom…that’s why.