I know a family whose son was sent over to Iraq. I know someone else whose brother was shipped off to that land of sand. I know of a wife who lost her husband and father of their child to that hellish place. All of these people want their loved ones back. They all ask the question, "Why are OUR people dying over there?" They are tired of the rote response, "Freedom." "Whose freedom?" they ask.
I have learned that a lot of people dislike our involvement in Iraq. Many (perhaps most) Americans do not want our soldiers dying anymore. They disagree with the war and want our soldiers to come home. But when I ask, "What about the Iraqi people?" the response is usually, "Let them take care of themselves. They'll sort things out eventually. This isn't our war - it's theirs. Why should we stick our hands into someone Else's civil war?"
In the end, it seems that a lot of people think we (our country) should spend our time and money working on our own internal problems and less time and money on fixing other peoples problems. I think there is a good argument in that. However, I also think that it lacks something.
Selfishness - America has mostly become a place where we define freedom as the right to do whatever we want, whenever we want. We have become a country where many people (but not all) put their own personal needs above the needs of others. We have the mentality that we must look out for ourselves because no one else will. We have lost the spirit of charity as a nation. It stems from the belief that we can control our own destiny/lives - a major theme of democracy. But in reality we do not control our lives - and when people come in contact with this reality, much complaining and other unfavorable responses are usually involved. I've seen a lot of people freak out and lose it when they cannot control their lives (and other peoples lives as well sometimes). While we cannot control everything that happens to us, we CAN control how we respond to these circumstances.
Is looking out for our own good higher than looking out for the good of others? I think many Americans would answer, "Yes!" I say, "No!" The Catholic Church says no. We should be mainly concerned with the well being of others, and rely on God to take care of me- not the other way around. Christianity is built on self-sacrifice and charity. "You will know my people by their love for one another." We are instructed to give water, food, and clothing to our enemies. We are to conquer evil with good acts - acts of charity. "What you have done to them, you have done to me," says Jesus. Are we taking care of the poor, the helpless, the oppressed, the hungry? How we treat them is how we treat God. Gods asks for effort, not results. Are we willing to do something to help the less fortunate?
I recently read a Church document about the need for charity - not only within one's family, not only within one's community, not only within one's country, but in this day and age, within the global community. "To those who have been given much, much is expected." America has been given much in the global picture, so we as a country SHOULD be doing what we can to help out other countries who are less fortunate. This does not mean we should be doing what we are doing in Iraq, but in the big picture, we should be doing something to help people like them (the poor oppressed people of Iraq - not necessarily the wealthy or power citizens). I believe that we are obligated to do something for them, and what we are doing is doing something - regardless of how effective it is or isn't. The fact of the matter is that we are putting an effort toward helping them - and God asks for effort, not results. The church defines a martyr as someone who gives up his life for the sake of the Gospel - in others words, dies for someone else because of a deep love for God. I can only hope that the soldiers who have died were Christians who believed that they were preaching the gospel of love and self sacrifice for the sake of the love of God for his people.
I cannot control the fact we have soldiers over in Iraq fighting, dying, and trying to help - but I can control my response to the situation. I hope that the sacrifices made by these soldiers are out of love for the well being of other people - acts of selfless charity. I am proud that we as a country don't choose to sit back and let the world "take care of itself." I am proud that as a nation who has much, we are taking our global responsibility seriously and doing what we can to make this a better world. Sure we have our own problems, but the problems of many other countries are far worse than our problems. We should not by any means ignore our own problems, but we should not ignore other people's problems either. As much as I may disagree with Bush and his administration, I like that they have taken an intentionally active role in the global picture. They seem to take our national obligation to help other countries seriously - whether or not that leads to any specific results. We are called to have effort, not results.
For all of my personal disagreements with Bush and his administration, based on my Catholic perspective, I would have to say that this administration has done okay. They have defended life (in their pro-life voting and elections) and they have made an effort to make this world a better place for the less fortunate. Perhaps it came at the expense of some serious internal failures, but in the big picture, self-sacrifice is sometimes necessary - even as a nation. We are going to for sure have a very different administration after the elections next year, and I can only hope that we don't loose the few good things that have been accomplished by the current administration.