After I watched Guardians of the Galaxy last year, the main thing I walked away with is the realization that we have decided that even on a galactic level, in a team of heroes hailing from every corner of a vast congregation of stars, the beings of this planet earth see one its own as the likely leader of this group of greatests throughout the galaxy. As is plainly seen, numero uno of the protagonists, Star-Lord Peter Quill, hails from Earth, and additionally is quite clearly American (he also happens to be a straight White male, but I’m not even trying to get to that here) (oh, and he also happens to be an asshole). Is it so that we think so highly of ourselves that we can be this confident that we stay on top of all the food chains even at the galactic scale? What exactly is the size of our ego?
Today is, on the Gregorian calendar, September 11. Our country usually on this day remembers the nearly 3000 innocent people that lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on this day more than a decade ago. If you have read my blog for quite a while, though, you know that I do something different on this day. I think of, and I wish you to think of too, the over 100000 innocent civilians of Iraq that lost their lives as a result of the American-led invasion of Iraq in the name of fighting terrorism. And in most of America, these 100000 lives we took are not given nearly the attention the 3000 lives we lost get, because they are not us. But they not being us does not mean they did not deserve to be, and we, America, performed a terrible, criminal deed when we invaded Iraq and stole nearly 50 times the number of innocent lives that they…did not take from us (zero of the perpetrators of 9/11 were Iraqi).
If America is the greatest country in the world, then it ought to be able to afford to spend a little bit in introspection. We’re better than most of the world at this already, and freely discuss more of the uncomfortable parts of our history than many other nations are willing to, in this world of proud humans. But just because everyone else does worse does not mean what we do is enough. Maybe we should acknowledge in the movies we watch and the stories we tell that we aren’t always the greatest heroes, in ability or in sense of justice and morals. It is crucial to be able to see us depicted as antagonist, because that is when we can learn something negative about who we are in the eyes of others, something that if we fix could probably immensely improve our relations in the world, and even if our stand in the world agrees not, understand why we are hated. When we venture to understand negative views of us rather than just cast them aside as extreme without thinking about them, we have taken the first step to no longer being enemies with them, or even if that is not something we desire, it allows us to have a better peace of mind in understanding what fuels the actions of the peoples that view us as the evil ones. And there are definitely those who do so. And definitely those that are justified in doing so. Because over the course of this arguably still young but far achieved nation’s history, there were many more than just a few episodes in the show of the civilizations of earth in which we, America, were clearly the villains.