Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die. ~U2
I just got back from a trip overseas (to see development work World Vision is doing in a third world setting). And one of the reactions I received on my blog was that we [Americans] should help our own people first.
I don’t know if that same sentiment turns up in other first world countries like Canada and the UK—perhaps readers from those countries could speak to that in the comments. But it’s fairly common here in the States.
I went on my first trip to the third world last year—to Bolivia—and, at the time, I didn’t really know how to respond to this challenge that we need to help at home first. Now that I have seen what third-world poverty looks like and had several months to think about it, my response is to ask a few questions.
1. Do you think that the needy in the U.S. have more value than the needy anywhere else?
Do you think Americans deserve more or deserve to be first? Why?
What gives someone who lucked into a U.S. birth certificate more value or importance than someone with a Kenyan, or Bolivian or Sri Lankan birth certificate? When you say we should help “our own,” it sounds like you are setting Americans above everyone else, and that feels very icky to me.
I believe in the inherent value of human life, no matter where that life is lived. We can be patriotic without demeaning or devaluing others.
2. If you do think somehow Americans are better or more valuable or more important, have you ever considered what they might lead to?
Have you considered how that attitude leads to things like anti-Semitism, white supremacy, male chauvinism, and ethnic cleansing?
Do these comparisons disgust you? Do they offend you? Good. They should.
The root of those ideologies is the hyper-valuing of one’s own people (race, ethnicity, gender) and the devaluing of others. These horrible attitudes are the logical conclusion of such ideas. Let me be clear. I am not saying that if you have pride in your country of origin, that makes you a bigot.
But if your national pride leads to seeing others as somehow less, you should stop and think it through a little further.