Warning: I am about to step up onto my “soapbox” for a few minutes…
As I scrolled through all of the political garbage that populates Facebook I happened across a video clip that caught my attention. In this clip, from the first 10 minutes of the very first episode of HBO’s “The Newsroom”, the character played by Jeff Daniels answers the question “Why do you believe America is the greatest country in the world?”
His answer is startling.
It’s not the greatest country in the world, professor. That’s my answer.
“Will”, Jeff’s character, continues for the next three-plus minutes to deliver a convincing series set of statistics that back up his answer. The character then drives home the point that while we may have once been among the best in the world, we have slid far from that place because we have chosen to abandon those traits that made us, as a nation, truly great. In the end he makes the statement,
The first step in solving any problem is to recognize there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.
He is absolutely correct. Even if the statistics he uses are somewhat misleading, as Gary Shapiro shows in his article, “Is America the Greatest Country in the World?” in Forbes Magazine, his overall point is valid. We have slid, and continue to slide as a nation.
Now, you may be asking, “What does this have to do with martial arts or being a Black Belt?”
Everything. As the quote on the picture says, the belt doesn’t represent who the artist is, it represents what they can be. Same should be said of our flag and the name of our country. If we stop “beating our chests” over who we think we are and start working on living up to all that is symbolized in our flag and the greatness that the people of our country have displayed in the past we could truly be a great nation again. Every Black Belt worthy of wearing the belt understands that being a Black Belt is not a “Position of Honor” but a “Place of Great Responsibility”.
Shapiro talks about “Exceptionalism” in his article. This is the idea that most nations firmly believe that they are “the exception”, that thye are somehow better than other nations regardless of what reality presents. Black Belts who fail to move past a self-focus and the delusion that they are better than others because of their rank soon find themselves forgotten, taking a distant second to those who are actively working to help others and build others up. It is time our leaders, local and national, rediscover the art of leadership and begin focusing on building our nation again. Yes we, as a nation, will always have flaws. These flaws and areas of struggle should not divide us and cause us to falter. Just as a martial artist learns that it is in the struggles that we grow the most, our leaders should be finding ways to use our national challenges to build a stronger nation, not to divide it.
The United States of America can once again become a great nation. All the building blocks of greatness are present in its citizens. What we need now is a series of leaders who can bring those strengths out and help us come together as a nation. Lets start today, as a people, by looking at our flag not as a symbol of our greatness, but of our potential for greatness.
Ok, I will now step off of my “soapbox” and onto the street where I can do my part to rebuild our nation… will you join me?