Sometimes there seems to omuch materialism, or an excess of selfishness. But at base the United States remains what it always has been -- an idealistic nation.
Canadian journalist Gordon Sinclair stood up for America in 1973, during the Watergate era when the US was so sharply criticized; his comment was recalled on his passing last week. "This Canadian," Sinclair began, "thinks it's time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people in the world." He delineated humanitarian and financial assistance the US had provided nations.
A federal court late last week dismissed a suit to compensate Japanese-Americnas interned by the US during World War II; it held the statute of limitations had run out. This increases pressure on Congress to carry out last year's recommendations by a federal commission: that a national apology and Americans about that dark chapter in their nation's history.
The US, most of which readily accepted internment during wartime, now is not happy that it was done. But the issue now must be settled in Congress, where some 100 members cosponsor measures to carry out the commission's recommendations.
On a different level the United States in recent years has provided opportunity for educational and economic progress to Japanese-Americans. Japanese-Americnas today have one of the higher percentages of college graduates of all US ethnic groups; they have succeeded professionally and are relatively affluent.
Ironically, the US also has accorded major advantages to its World War II enemy of the Pacific, Japan. That nation has found the US an excellent market for everything from television sets to automobiles. Japanese car companies produce at US plants; a joint General Motors-Toyota manufacturing arrangement is underway in California, where most of the internees were rounded up.
Last week was the 30th anniversary of the landmark US Supreme Court decision that outlawed school segregation. It also clearly signified that three centuries of legally sanctioned discrimination against blacks must end. State and local laws tumbled, and blacks in much larger numbers than before were enabled to achieve.
America is not a perfect society. There have been many chapters of resistance to ethnic differences throughout American history. Some continue. But ethnic groups ultimately have been provided a just opportunity to achieve: Injustices are recompensed.
America has yet to deliver the full resolution of past injustices to interned Japanese-Americans or to black Americans. Work must continue to bring that about. But what has been done for others will be done for them. The fundamental national idealism eventually wins out.