Interesting things happen when you're up at 32,000 feet.
I'm on my way to the LA area to work with one of our new portfolio companies. Sitting next to me is a friendly lady also traveling to LA. After the polite intro talk, she starts to read the National Post, one of Canada's national newspapers, and I start to dive into my inbox trying to catch up.
She grunts. I look over.
"Well, there you go, 25% of those Americans are official racists."
"Here, read this, paying particular attention to the last paragraphs."
On page A17, dead center, "U.S. Senate apologizes to lynching victims" reads the headline.
Hmmm. I read through the story which recounts a rather dark period of my country's history, pointing out that 4,700 people were killed since 1882 all while the United States refused to pass anti-lynching legislation. The story talks about a survivor saying the obvious, it's about time, won't bring anybody back, etc.
The story is written for the Canadian News Service by Sheldon Alberts and is reasonably free of anything inflammatory, rather it just reports the passing of the apology resolution with some human interest appropriately added to the story. I then hit the last two paragraphs of the story.
"Of the 100 U.S. Senators, 75 added their names to the apology resolution as co-sponsors. But several expressed disappointment that, even now, the resolution could not be passed unanimously."
"'It is a statement in itself that there are not 100 co-sponsors,' Senator John Kerry said."
I give the paper back and stare out the window.
My life has been one amazing adventure after another.
I was in the U.S. Air Force and fortunate enough to participate in actions where I could hand out candy to grateful kids, pass out some meals and blankets, thus being able to show the good side of my country.
I worked for Microsoft and given the opportunity to travel the globe, including China, where I was able to give numerous lectures about American technology to eager people wanting to participate in the great technology revolution that's been happening for over 15 years.
Help dig a well for a village in Zaire and you change a little portion of the world. Spend 3 hours teaching a group of eager Chinese students and you change a little portion of the world.
Every one of my adventures scored one for the good guys; my fellow teammates and my country as a whole. We were the Americans. We were appreciated. The flag on my uniform and later on my laptop bag meant something.
Today it's hard to carry this passport.
How is it that with the so-called power of the press, every paper, on the left or right, doesn't print the names of these 25 senators and suggest they resign? Where is the executive leadership? Why isn't the leadership of the Senate in a bipartisan manner, calling on "the gang of 25" to account for this act of omission.
I'm sadden that my fellow citizens don't call on the elected representatives to explain this gaping hole in a fair, decent, overdue, non-political act of atonement.
I don't understand how the so-called religious right, the so-called left wing, the so-called conservatives who all want to claim the moral high ground for my country, can collectively shrug their shoulders over a simple apology that could allow our country to speak with one voice to a segment of society which was so grievously wronged.
It's hard to carry this passport.
I've never subscribed to the notion that it's us and them with respect to the people and the government. The government is us and we are the government. My fellow Americans own these problems. We all are diminished when we don't take stands, internally, on issues that have powerful messages to each other as well as the rest of the world.
We certainly live interesting times.
My country has decided to take a whole series of actions which are having consequences which will impact the lives of my grandchildren and beyond. Many of the repercussions are only beginning to take hold and which will take years to fully grasp.
Today, the anti-American jokes have more bite to them.
It's becoming acceptable conduct for government officials in a foreign country to call Americans, all of us, "bastards" and get applauded on national television for these remarks.
When you have to build the equivalent of Fort Knox around our embassies, consulates, and other American interests abroad, it's clearly not a good trend. Regardless of your political leanings, we live in a connected interdependent world where isolationism is clearly not an option that is in our long term best interest.
I recognize that this is just a nit. A simple little thing that doesn't impact much of anything.
But we have to start someplace.
We have to, as a citizenry, draw a line that says here is what we, as Americans, stand for. We can atone for mistakes. We can accept responsibility. We can set an example, not so much for the rest of the world but for ourselves and our future generations.
I believe it is the responsibility of my fellow citizens to take a small but meaningful step to acknowledge the good things our country has afforded us. You don't have to march, take an unpopular stance or chain yourself to the White House fence. What you could do, however, is simply demand that your elected officials stand for something and stand for what's right.
Look into your heart, look into the mirror and take some action to let your elected officials know you are paying attention and you want the right thing to be done when the right thing is called for. Just because you didn't vote for the current official doesn't mean you stop caring.
Issues come and go, debates can be hot -n- heavy. But wouldn't it be nice if there were a few things every now and then that could be unifying? A few stances that everyone could simply acknowledge are the right things to do.
9/11 was a tragic unifying event for my country and, indeed for the world. Does it really have to take the loss of life for all of us to come together on a few issues?
Wouldn't we get some internal satisfaction/pride if all 100 senators lined up and, one by one, shook the hand of James Cameron, the oldest living survivor of a lynching, and simply said "I'm sorry" on behalf of you, me, and all Americans.
For a brief moment, the world would stop and see a unified country do the right thing. We could then return to our respective positions or sides of the aisle.
So, while Robert Scoble defends his company, Dan Gillmor "shreds" him, and others pile on, enjoying the free speech and other benefits of being a citizen, I'm currently looking at the back side of Hugh Macleod's business card.
"The price of being a sheep is Boredom. The price of being a Wolf is Loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care."
Somehow, in an abstract sort of way, Hugh makes the point better then me.
32,000 ft. It's an interesting place.