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Charleston, SC, United States
"Fear is a stranger to the ways of love. Identify with fear, and you will be a stranger to yourself." -ACIM

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Book Review: The Idea That is America

Ok so it took me about 6 months to get through this book because I read a lot of other stuff in between as is the case when I read most nonfiction books. I have to go out and read news articles and fact check anything that sounds fishy to me too so it’s not like I go from cover to cover on these things.

Anyway, The Idea That is America; Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World, by Anne-Marie Slaughter is worth picking up. Slaughter is balanced in her criticisms of both the liberal and conservative values that are today professed in our global war on terror and does make a few great points about how we are mishandling our image to the rest of the world.

Her book is broken down into seven chapters titled: Liberty, Democracy, Equality, Justice, Tolerance, Humility, and Faith. Of these I found Liberty, Equality and Justice to be her most compelling. The chapter on Justice seemed to be the best researched while some of her later chapters showed her liberal leanings and seemed to move a little too far towards the ‘can’t we all just get along’ type message.

In general this book is about our core values as a nation and how our current policies are not living up to these values. It is about our shortcomings and our successes. I found the book to be both educational and entertaining despite its shortcomings. (Footnotes! Not endnotes lady!) I hate all that flipping back and forth just to find sources.

A few of her points I will quote here just so you can get a feel for the overall message of the book.

“Our shared values are essential because they link America to the world. The belief that American values are universal values – that all men and women are created equal, that all are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of race, creed, or nationality – connects us to other nations.”
I think that Slaughter is correct here in that if these idealistic values that our founders professed were as true in practice as they are in theory that we would be that great city on a hill (a metaphor that she uses throughout) and that the eyes of other nations would look to us with a fonder gaze.

Slaughter too recognizes this later in the opening section when she writes, “Our pride in our values is a source of tremendous strength, but we often seem to talk as if we were the only nation in the world, or at least certainly the best. Perhaps, not surprisingly the end of the Cold War went to our heads. Instead of understanding these values as part of a process, we too often seemed to believe that we actually embodied them in perfected form. Instead of inviting others to strive with us in attaining our highest ideals, we came to believe that we had finished the job ourselves and demanded that others simply imitate us. Our confidence all too frequently came off as arrogance, damaging America’s image abroad – at times with dire consequences.”

You would have to read the book to get the details on all of Slaughter’s stated American values; however a short scan of the Declaration and the Constitution should give you a clue. Anyway, the book is full of great stories and cases of times when America both stood up for and denounced our values either because of fear or through courage.

One story of an Egyptian named Qutb who came to America in 1948 really hit home with me. He was troubled because he thought he was coming to a land of freedom and opportunity but all he found was capitalism and superficiality. He wrote, “What I really need most here is someone to talk to, to talk about topics other than dollars, movie stars, brands of cars – a real conversation on the issues of man, philosophy, and soul.” Wow. If Qutb was looking for the same thing in 1948 that I as an American am looking for today, then how far have we really come in the last sixty years?

Think about it. Turn on your TV for 15 minutes, if you don’t already have it on now. Listen to the dialogue and you will hear, ‘how to make money fast, start your own business, buy this car, this car can do this for you, our product is the best, buy this, Britney is in rehab, Paris has crabs, who is my baby’s daddy?’ You will have to search long and hard to find a true social conversation on topics such as the issues of man, philosophy and the soul. Huh. What is the American soul today?

On a separate point here, I just heard on my TV that we have now been in Iraq longer than we were actively involved in WWII. Wow. It took us less time 60 years ago to take back Europe from the entrenched Nazis than it is taking us to clean up a so called ‘third world country.’ Sorry. Just thought I’d squeeze that in here.

Slaughter begins her conclusion with this statement, “American patriotism is grounded not only in our love for our country itself, but also in our love for the values our country stands for – of the idea that is America, no matter how far short we may fall in practice. It is the idea that knits us together in our vast diversity. It is the idea that our soldiers fight for. It is the idea that all patriotic citizens stand for, even against our own government. And it is the idea that ultimately belongs to all the world’s peoples.”

Two things here. Our soldiers today fight for politics, money and oil not values. They may believe that they fight for our values, but somehow I doubt that. Secondly, I think you could substitute anything for America in that statement. We love our children, our pets, our families no matter how far short they may fall of our expectations of them. Our ‘patriotism’ and love for our country comes in the same unconditional fashion. America is our motherland. She is our hope our dreams and our life blood. When she falls short of our expectations, we do not abandon her but rather love her still. Yes we must constantly strive to make her better but we must also recognize when we are using her ideas and values in the wrong way, by promoting a corrupt political or ideological philosophy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An update on me...

Since we last spoke or saw each other dear reader, this is what has transpired in the life of one Andrew Michael Jenkins. Oh, I hope that’s not the first time you’ve seen it all spelled out like that since many of you know me by many names. Andrew, AJ, AJ Jenkins, Andre’, АНДРЕ, or many a name I’m sure I’ve been called. Anyway, I digress…

We’ll start with January 2008. Suffered through the slow season at work in Charleston and in general tried to lie as low as possible to conserve cash through the winter. Realized my life was a little too much like the Into the Wild movie and I was surviving on rice and stuck in a bus. (Hope you saw the movie or better yet read the book). Anyway, decided to move downtown to get closer to work and the night life.

March 2008: Moved downtown with a friend of mine named Patrick to an awesome location less than a five minute walk from my work and less than 10 away from anywhere of any major importance downtown. With gas being over $3 a gallon, I’ve managed to get 45 days out of a tank of gas by walking everywhere I go. I digress again…
Birthday! Had an awesome day. Brunch with mom, had a haircut, shave and massage at a male spa downtown. Had dinner with friends and then a small get together with people from work at the local pub.

So I know that isn’t much in the way of a story and hence the point of the update. There wasn’t much to update up until now. Elaine and Jeff came to visit. The baseball season has started. Went to a local Class A game tonight in fact. Still can’t decide who I want to vote for in the race to the White House or as CNN likes to call it: Ballot Bowl! Patrick (roommate I mentioned earlier) was in a world premier play called This War is Live. If any of you are planning to visit Charleston during Spoleto the play will be running again and I highly recommend it.

On a sad note, my mother’s parents moved away from Charleston last week. They went to Waycross, Georgia to an assisted living facility. I will have to drive 4 hours to see them now and even though I know they will be receiving good care, it was just great to know they were so close before. This will take a lot of pressure off of my mother which is great and she needs time for herself. But it also takes away one more reason form me to sit still here.

I have come to this resolution. I have a lease here in Charleston until March 2009. At that time I will set off on my next great adventure. The only problem is, I have no idea what that is going to be.

So far I’ve come up with only a few ideas: Get TEFL certified and go to Europe and teach for a year, Move to New Zealand and get a Masters degree there in Education probably two or two and a half years, Move to the Northwest somewhere and see what that’s all about Patrick and I had talked about maybe Seattle… and those are all I’ve come up with so far. I like the New Zealand idea a lot.

I know I can’t hang out in the Food and Beverage world forever and I sure can’t just go on with the day to day of not moving forward. I have a problem because what I’m doing now, while entertaining, is not moving me forward in life. Business has been good lately though and this is going to be one long summer.

Having some thoughts of doing some writing this summer. Don’t worry I will use complete sentences then not just these fragments I’ve forced you to suffer through to this point. That’s why I started this blog to try and get my mind working towards some different ideas. Oh hence the poetry below this. Don’t freak out, those were just some mental ramblings that I thought sounded pretty good.

Plan a road trip friends. I would love to see you and feel free to check back here in the future to read something much more interesting than this I promise. I plan on trying to find some things to bring up and post. And feel free to chime in on what you think my next trip should be.

Peace be with you all!
-A. Jenkins.

Monday, April 14, 2008

4 Poems I'll Share With You

Storms come like shadows,
Quietly and deceptively, not showing their true selves until the event arrives.

Like the smile crawling into a warm bed,
That is quickly erased by the realization that you are there alone.

Folds and curves, roundness of symmetry.
A clear cut with no unnecessary measure.

Eyes burning into every soul and drowning,
Drowning them in a sea of green.

A youthful release of energy,
Joining life and all with great pleasure.

A voice like church bells sounding,Love never spoken, love never seen.

Who are we if not brothers?
My ideas are not yours.
Your life is not my own
Differences kinship can not atone.

We were all once Roman, but times pass.
Now the world divided by the looking glass.
Wars rage and governments drone
We show our true selves in combat alone.

Weak and animalistic.
We are drawn to fight for what cause?
Divided we are standing
Standing against peace and prosperity for all.

Together great things can be done.
But fighting we find ourselves again.
Why not peace everlasting?
Because we are brothers as Cane and Abel.

But we are bound together
Not by birth or by blood.
We are bound by out mutual fate on this earth.
Who are we if not brothers?

To find such levity is to be grossed beyond comprehension.

But to reap such rewards,
Is to the finest powers.

How is it that we come to such a place in life
Where to do nothing is to gain all?

Is it men that fall?
Or Man?

Why is it that we lower the moral standard of ourselves?
Is it sympathy or merely apathy?

But can I lower myself?
For a moment of pleasure?
Even if it means perpetuating this downward spiral?

Is that not how we got here in the first place?

Every day begins and every day ends with choices.
But for whom do I make these choices?
Myself or for others?

Who gains?

This is life,
And sacrifices need to be made.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Song I have Stuck in My Head

Working Class Hero
by John Lennon

As soon as you're born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool
Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to pick a careerWhen you can't really function you're so full of fear
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you're so clever and class less and free
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

There's room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

If you want to be a hero well just follow me
If you want to be a hero well just follow me