Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! I definitely agree that it is difficult to notice when religious oppression is taking place, especially because it can be so subtle and does not always effect a majority of the population. Issues like having “In God We Trust” on our currency can be so difficult to address, since they are rooted so deeply in the traditions of this country and have already been heavily debated in the past with no change as a result. In cases such as this, I think it is important to remember that this country was built by and for people who started as immigrants, regardless of the traditions that have developed as a result. On the topic of currency specifically, it would be interesting to hear the perspectives of someone outside of the Christian faith, as I have generally only discussed the topic with those within the church.
This pessimistic outlook on our country has been the topic of many conversations I’ve had recently and, quite frankly, reading your post was a great wake-up call for me. After moving from my hometown, where politics were more or less taboo, to this campus, where students are so vocal about the problems facing our country, I very easily gave into the “grass is greener” mindset that you write about. Hearing constantly about anti-refugee sentiment, systematic inequality, and other flaws in our political system while observing the undying national pride of European friends has lead me to feel quite disheartened about the state of America. However, maintaining this defeatist outlook can only hamper the success of our country, especially as it fails to recognize the many ways in which our country has improved. Without understanding our past successes along with our shortcomings, we will never be able to learn and implement successful policies. Thanks for bringing this to our attention and reminding us that national pride is not nearly as unsubstantiated as we are prone to believing.
This post was eye-opening for me. Having grown-up in Michigan and now living so near Detroit, I assumed I knew a great deal about the plight of Detroit. However, your blog elucidated many intricacies of the crisis I had previously been blind to. I was especially surprised by the public health facts that El-Sayed shared, although those about gang violence are no less appalling. Until traveling to an area without access to affordable nutrition, I had never realized how fortunate we are to have something as mundane as a grocery store in our communities. It truly is a tragedy that these problems are rarely a part of the dialogue about rebuilding Detroit, and far worse that we so often fail to see that such crippling problems exist in our “free and equal” country. Thank you for the reminder that we cannot distance ourselves from issues that truly hit so close to home.
Thanks for commenting on my piece. I did not intend to subject the upper class to an unfair trial, so my apologies if it came across as such! Similarly, I agree with your belief in freedom to act and the equality of respect, and I was not attempting to suggest that the government should encroach on either of those liberties. Although empathy is not the only solution to social injustice, overcoming power imbalances caused by socioeconomic differences puts the odds in favor of the wealthier or more powerful party. For a situation to be considered “socially just,” both parties must view the outcome as justice, which is where my idea of mutual benefit, respect, and understanding comes into play. I do appreciate you challenging my reasoning, though, because it makes for a more thought-provoking Like Mill, I think that debate is the best way to ensure one is firm in his or her beliefs!
Anna, I really appreciated your post because I felt as though it nearly mirrored my own thoughts on the topic. Coming from a rather privileged identity, I never felt like I could fully understand religious oppression or its effects. More so, I was confused about how religious oppression could be an issue in a country that was founded on the idea of freedom of religion. I agree when you say that for those of us (i.e. me) who buy into the concrete idea of American freedom of religion, it is extremely hard to notice these violations. As I’ve looked into the issue more, I have begun to understand how religious oppression can manifest in ways that are hard to identify for those who are not directly affected, with “in God we trust” plastered across the federal currency as a prime example. Thank you for taking the time to write on this subject, because I think it’s important to try to ensure those of us who don’t regularly face oppression based on our religion develop a sensitivity to the subject. I think this is a great first step to ensuring more American citizens use their religious privilege to step up and say something when they see another person or group’s liberties in danger.
Ethan, I really enjoyed this post! I agree that it often is hard to maintain the thought that America is “the greatest country in the world,” when we overlook many of the effects of that “greatness” in our everyday lives. To be honest, I was tempted to throw a fit when I heard what those French fourth-graders eat for lunch—at that age, my day would have been made if I had heard chicken nuggets were on the menu. I think your post excellently highlights something far more important than school lunch disparities or Icelandic feminism (even though feminism is not something I would call irrelevant by any means). America is a country that has granted its citizens the liberty to have a diversity of opinions. Additionally, America protects its citizens’ freedoms with democratic elections and one of the most advanced armed services in the world. It’s easy to get caught up in the ways in which America has “failed” when you’re doing homework that your Finnish pen-pal will never have, but stopping to realize that American are offered a lifestyle that is unparalleled by many can help to put things into perspective. I think you did a great job reminding us of that, so thank you!
Alex, thank you for your praise! I’ve spent limited time abroad, so I haven’t been able to experience the same sorts of cultural attitudes and perceptions in the depths you have. Someday, I would like to be able to do that. Even after I posted my blog, I was still struggling with the nuances of the position I took. To what extent do we really have a right to be upset with the way our country is run compared to countries with similar economic means? Certainly, the United States is special in many ways. But as the richest nation, I sometimes feel as though settling for “pretty good” is not what America is about, especially for those who assert without question that we are the greatest country on earth (I am not one of those people). I count myself as extremely lucky to have been born in the United States, but I also believe we all have a responsibility to demand the best from our leaders (by being an active part of the political process). Until that requirement is met, I fear we must settle for American “Above-averageism” rather than exceptionalism.
This was a great post. Your commentary on the nature of justice in society being inherently unequal was compelling, and the photos from the exhibition really drove home the point.
Though it was well argued, I have to say I disagree with your conclusion. To me our society is based on preserving the freedom to act, and equality of respect in the eyes of the law. It seems like the exorbitant wealth of the upper class you speak about extends beyond “justice” and impinges on the members of the “mudsill” class’ rights to respect.
I am not one to say that this is true in today’s society, but I think that it is possible moving forward for us to curtail the exorbitant riches of the few and use the profits to curb the injustices naturally present in lower circumstances. Opportunity, and the right to a fair trial in society, are at stake here.
I agree that those at the top of society have difficulty feeling the heat from the bottom of the iron, and may find it hard to act in the best interests of those at the bottom, but I question whether the best solution is to ask more empathy of those at the top. I would propose giving more autonomy and opportunity to those at the bottom, and let them rise to the top by their own volition, unencumbered by the unfair wealth of the few.
What an amazing post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and research on this subject!
Your post really connected with me – especially because I spent a good deal of time traveling last year, and I was exposed both to efficiencies in other systems that weren’t present in our own, and to the anti-American sentiment that is present in a lot of cultures around the world. I experienced the disillusionment you warn against in your concluding sentences, and I think I’ve come to realize why our country is special, even in light of its obvious flaws.
Anna, I first want to say that I’m posting my comment here because I couldn’t leave a comment on your post. I implemented Ethan’s solution— hopefully it works!
I’d also like to say that I loved your post. The idea of Islamophobia as a reincarnation of our tendency to exclude certain people from the rights we hold dear because of prejudice, racism, xenophobia or religious intolerance is a compelling one. It seems that if we continue to narrow our definition of who an “American” is, i.e. who is entitled to the rights we espouse, we will find ourselves with the smallest subset of the least diverse cross section of our population. Thinking in logical extremes like that helps me see that such a vision of an American would be absurd.
We’re a country of immigrants, and immigration is central both to our identity and our progress. Obstacles like xenophobia and racism are big ones, and I agree that it is critical for us to attack them at their logically bankrupt foundations if we are to succeed in annulling their effects.