You’re all washed and dressed, ready to step out. One last check in the mirror. Whattaya see…? Well you see one of the three you’s. The you looking back…then there’s the you your friends will see at the party… finally the you the rest of the world will see. All three you’s are you, something like the very different features to the same rough-cut diamond.
It’s also true for our country. Especially that third story — how the rest of the world perceives us. Same country but today projecting a very different national image than we once did.
During our first few generations it was that of a free farmer nation. Strong brawny tillers of the soil [see Currier & Ives]. After the Civil War another image superimposed itself, that of a cowboy nation conquering western frontiers [see Buffalo Bill]. Starting with the 20th C the image emerged more that of entrepreneurs inventing technology and building businesses [see Thomas Edison & Henry Ford].
Today a new national image has filled our minds and others in the world. America the military [see General George Patton]. Like it or not — gradually we began to like it — the US came out of WWII as a world power. Like all empires throughout history, power begets power. Since 1945 there has been a persistent rise in military spending. Both abroad — in the shape of almost 200 military bases and naval fleets — and at home — in the shape of federal agencies from the FBI, CIA, and Secret Service to a dizzying array of federal para-military units operating on all levels of life.
Who’s our image of a hero these days…? Surely not wheat farmers in Kansas or business executive in New York. Instead think guys in dark glasses packing weapons and surveillance systems…cool operators working in the shadows of spies and double agents…GPS systems monitoring everything that moves…bulky GI’s in fatigues, goggled helmets, and automatic weapons prowling through the streets of Afghanistan and guiding drones over hidden terrorists.
We can’t seem to get enough Hollywood/Network movies about the ancient Romans. Their military might and legionnaires. It’s the image of power. Domination. Danger. And a permanent state of war. For good or for ill, today we are the new Rome….
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