Menachem Begin, former prime minister of Israel was once quoted as saying: “A Jew is anyone who calls himself one.” His philosophical statement was prompted by an interview of an American journalist commenting on the wide dissemination and disparity in variations of religious orders claiming to represent philosophical tenets of the Jews. There are multiple denominations of Christian and other religious groups and this theoretical statement of affirmation might easily be carried over to some if not all of them. Faith is not just being born into a certain culture but the affirmation of that faith when coming of age where one can assert his or her own statement of belief. Confirmation of teens and bar and bat mitsfah ceremonies by Catholic and Jewish cultures are some of these formula rituals that welcome a new believer into their faith. Many cultures have used traditional rites of passage when coming of age when they will be part of the community that they were born into. America’s culture espoused the belief that a person’s right to believe and follow a religion is a right that should be protected and separate from state institutionalization. Despite the fact that it was settled primarily christian people, the early settlers established safeguards espoused from deep-seated fear of state connection to organized religion. They came to this country from a history of religious persecution and purging that inured to a great suspicion of government controlled by religious leadership. The constitution built protections for all people to practice, or not, the faith of their choice without fear of reprisal or infringement. When America takes on a role of world policeman and protector it creates a barrier of ignorance of countries whose governing is by religious principles and not an enigmatic political process. America had once been influenced by the subcultural paradigms tied to its structure. Religion still had a pull on the political process through the Republican form of government we built.
The morality and principals espoused by the various communities as influenced by their faiths dictated the kind of programs and actions our government should partake. Much of our propulsion into world wars and conflicts was propelled by a sense of right or wrong by the majority of its citizens who had faith in something other than the government or country itself. The majority of those in power to influence government were religious and dedicated to the principles that led to our present form of government. The erosion of religious following in this country leaves only the government as a source of trust for the people to follow–a dangerous precedent when considered that the paradigm was not meant to fully operate this way. Often this causes America to take action without regard to the effect on world economics or cultural modification. This unilateral tendency has led us to regret many of the choices of our past when military action was used as a course of diplomacy without understanding the underlying philosophical driven issues that caused the conflict in the first place. Vietnam was in essence a civil upheaval between various factions within the country but through effective rhetoric became the fight of capitalism over socialism. It was the education of an American public that recognized the propaganda from the facts and students began protesting and bringing the attention of the majority to its ignorance and mal-aligned conduct.
The Talmud professes that: We see things as we are, and we do not see things as they are, meaning our biases and perceptions create part of the conflict we face. If we are able to overcome these inherent biases and perceive things as they really are, we can change the world peacefully without resort to violent action. How effective would terrorist be without technology to spread their fear, or better yet with the education of the masses to realize that these sects are not germane to the religious tenets they pretend to follow. Like the propaganda used to incite an ignorant population here in America prior to education of the masses, education of world populations, and a more balanced news and reporting of various cultural issues and conflicts should be incorporated in our modern approach to world politics and diplomacy. No American soldier need die or be maimed on a foreign soil without first using our knowledge, education and skills to minimize any danger to world peace and stability. America has already shown their willingness to change and sacrifice or limit some of our great freedoms that our parents enjoyed since 2011, what is the harm in trying to put more effort and resources in education and new techniques of diplomacy? More money and incentives should be given this congressional period for funding and revamping our educational system, and developing it as an effective tool to change the world. Imagine someday there may be a million Begin-ers decrying that they are: AMERICAN.
Let everyone who says they want to be an American–be one.