The "Good American" And My Awakening

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As James Baldwin so eloquently stated, “If one fails to take up this tough task and continues in a delusion; eyes shut; remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”


It was quite the disheartening day when I realized that I, son of a preacher, descendant of the subjugated race here in America, was simply a mere creation and byproduct of the worst forms of American imperialism and religious bigotry the world has ever seen.

The most troubling part was that I'd known it all along, but had never understood the consequences. Since my birth I'd been taught the superiority of America and Christianity and it'd been my life blood. I had no concern nor did I possess any real respect for any other nation or religious experience different than my own.

My experiences as a youth into adulthood were perpetually Europeanized, from those quaint school houses which served primarily as subtle initiation into the capitalistic mindset, to the pulpits where I witnessed my father preach similar biblical doctrine utilized by American settlers to enervate my slave ancestors.

Everything I knew about life, love, holiness and patriotism was merely the manuscript of a nation that sanitizes bloodshed and oppression with the philosophy of Manifest Destiny. It is this mixing of genocidal nationalism and religiosity which creates the American citizen that is indifferent to injustice, religiously cold, and racially polarized.

This sort of human being is a very dangerous one indeed.

Those in position to create the policies of this country – ever since there’s been an America – have always espoused the notion that subjugation through force is the best formula to combat views in opposition to America’s domestic and foreign policy interests. One of the most troubling aspects of these legislative principles and onerous practices is that they have been applied considerably to persons within the United States as well as those in countries abroad.

America has demonstrated little restraint in inflicting the worse forms of oppression on its own people if it resulted in financial enrichment for the nation’s elite. African slaves, the people most responsible for America’s wealth and so much of the political power in Washington D.C., were perpetual victims of this philosophy. American imperialism is but the demonstration of Manifest Destiny.

This idea that the Creator desires for America to reign supreme in the world results in bloodshed without remorse. War becomes “God’s work,” genocide; nation building. The ways in which this is accomplished merely represents a means to an end; no matter the blood, despite the countless lives lost in the process.

As if mimicking the overall tenor of the country, much of America’s citizens, through capitalism, interact with one another in equally inhumane ways; ever-ready to exploit the other; especially between peoples of differing races, backgrounds, and cultures. 

It was only after comparing America’s history, and the mistreatment she’d supplied her friends and enemies, with the conditions which exist for those most exploited by America’s domestic and foreign policy interests could I come to terms with the uncomfortable dissonance I’d felt about my country.

The shock that accompanied my awakening resulted in continued questioning and investigation of the only identity I'd ever known. What does it mean to be a good American? How do race, religion and patriotism interact within an American context? These were some of the questions I wrestled with perpetually.

These questions are not only relevant to me in the present but have been my entire life absent my knowledge. And this is the root of the trouble; failing to question your position in America's story ensures the story of America continues as is. When I became conscious of this reality I then immediately woke up.

America functions as it does because this nation’s ideal state is for its citizens to be as much alike as possible, not in any monetary sense, quite the contrary, but similar in terms of the public’s perceptions, sensibilities and or disposition regarding the country’s past, present, and future. This consistency of thought among citizens provides America with willing participants for future atrocities and staunch defenders of its past.

My attempts to reconcile what it means to be a Christian and a good American have often troubled me for I have, until recently, understood them to be synonymous. They are not. In many ways they are mutually exclusive; one has little to do with the other, making it impossible to be authentically both at the same time.

America has always strived to maintain the facade of a nation that embraces the tenets of the Judeo-Christian faith. But if Christianity is truly a faith rooted in the fundamentals of love, sacrifice, and truth, how then can one be a good American when patriotism requires, at minimum, a celebration of America’s murderous accomplishments as a testament to one’s allegiance?

Love has no company with murder, sacrifice no relationship with capitalism, and truth no friendship with lies. The lies of America’s past continue being told to her children.

The complexity of deciphering true identity - racial, national and religious - if one is to reject the lies they've been told concerning the history of America and how one fits in it, is exhausting, but not impossible. As James Baldwin so eloquently stated, “If one fails to take up this tough task and continues in a delusion; eyes shut; remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”

When I survey America's psychological landscape, minding extra attention to those most victimized by America’s unbridled desire for power, domestic and abroad, without question, if an era of innocence ever did exist, it's far gone now.

Timothy Dwight Smith is a writer commenting on social and political matters.  He may be reached at

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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