No one is that important

People inflate their own importance. I am no exception to this trend, but I was reminded (again) that this is how people operate when I listened to America Abroad’s Remembering the Cole and one of the soldiers interviewed voiced his frustration that some Americans don’t remember the bombing of the USS Cole where some of his shipmates and friends were killed. This is a pattern that has repeated itself over and over. Of course, our pain is important to us, but, because we’re generally myopic and self-centered, we are easily frustrated when our pain isn’t important to everyone else. In reality this is just our inner 2-year-old showing up. Young children are just developing a sense of their selves as separate from others. After we’ve developed enough “self”, though, there is still some sense that we identify the larger tribe or nation as a part of our self. We share so many traits with our immediate family, for instance, that it can be difficult when they grow to be dramatically different than our selves. It is this sense of betrayal that I see so many parents struggling with when their children embrace a different religion, or when their children reject God entirely … when those you love — people who you’ve thought of as that larger self, part of the “us” in “us versus them” — don’t assimilate parts of your identity that you think of as fundamental, you’re in for some pain. And it is that pain that I heard in the words of the Cole survivor — “My buddies and I were out there defending America, and Americans can’t even remember and honor my friend’s death.” I can’t blame the veterans for feeling this way. After all, we’re reminded every day how much the military deserves our respect for, we’re told, the willingness to fight to the death for our freedom. And it is safe to say that most people in the military have adopted this mindset — that there is something more noble about armed service. Which is all fine, except that this point of view, embracing the nobility of service, identifying with it enough to be in the service, means that whenever you encounter someone who doesn’t share your paradigm (which happens pretty regularly when your friend has been killed), you experience a some real psychic pain.

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