Feb 262008
 
Authors: Nick Hemenway

Last week during a campaign stop in Madison, Wis., Michelle Obama told a crowd of supporters that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.”

During her “adult lifetime,” the U.S. captured and brought one of history’s most prolific mass murders to justice in Saddam Hussein. During her “adult lifetime,” the U.S. played the principal role in ending communism via the collapse of the Soviet Union. Are these not accomplishments to be proud of?

Why is it so perilous to be proud of our country? Why is it considered renegade to proclaim that the U.S. is the greatest country in the world?

Since the birth of our nation after the Revolutionary War, America has been known as the beacon of liberty. Is that something to be ashamed of?

Not to imply that Hollywood garners any respect in the real world, but I had to shake my head in disappointment Sunday when I saw that out of the five Oscar nominees for best documentary, three of them belittle the war on terrorism.

Alex Gibney won the category for his film “Taxi to the Dark Side,” which takes a narrow view on U.S. interrogation practices. In his acceptance speech, Gibney predictably took a jab at the Bush administration and said, “Let’s hope we can turn this country around, move away from the dark side and back to the light.”

You may remember several years ago in the lead up to the war in Iraq, French-American relationships took a turn for the worse.

Led by then President Jacques Chirac, France repeatedly opposed the U.S. in the U.N. Security Council over resolutions concerning Iraq. Chirac was afraid if we went into Saddam’s palaces, we would see their friendship bracelets, as well as “made in France” stamped on everything Saddam owned.

However, in a surprising turn of events, Nicolas Sarkozy was elected President of France in May 2007. What separates Sarkozy from his predecessor is his optimism and understanding that a strong relationship between our countries is in everyone’s best interests.

In September 2006, Sarkozy spoke at the French-American Foundation in Washington D.C. While he said he did not agree with our decision to go into Iraq, he told listeners that Chirac’s arrogance was not the solution, explaining, “It’s not appropriate to try and embarrass one’s allies or give the impression of gloating over their difficulties.”

This, my friends, is how you can disagree with our administration appropriately.

While that statement gave me hope for our countries’ relationship, it was something else he said that blew me away.

When discussing the strained relations, Sarkozy noted that the critical French elites envy our nation, because “the United States is the world’s leading economic, military and monetary power. Your economy is flourishing, your intellectual life is rich and research in the U.S. is structured in such a way that the world’s best researchers work at your universities, quickly becoming American patriots.”

Why is it that a French President is more proud of our country than many of our own citizens?

For centuries, our nation has been the image of success. While we may stumble from time to time, we are a just nation, firmly-based in liberty, for the entire world to see. This is why so many people give up everything they have to become part of our trademarked American Dream.

I have only been an American for 23 years now, but I don’t need a French president to tell me that America is the greatest country in the world. It’s time for the rest of the country to get with the program.

Nick Hemenway is a senior mechanical engineering major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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