There is a Native American allegory in which a man tells his grandson that there are two wolves inside each of us battling for our souls. One is bad; the other is good. The bad wolf embodies vices such as self-pity, resentment, anger, pride, greed, envy and lies. The good wolf embodies virtues such as love, patience, humility, hope, truth and compassion. When asked which wolf wins, the grandfather replies, “Whichever one you feed.”
The moral of the story is that what we focus on — what we pay attention to — grows. What we don’t pay attention to eventually shrinks and becomes less important. The point is that perspective matters.
For instance, you can focus on the fact that your bed is not made up perfectly and become aggravated, or you can focus on the fact that you have a bed in which to lie down safely at night and be grateful. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t then attempt to make up your bed more neatly — but when you go about that task, you are simultaneously being grateful that you have a bed at all.
This change in perspective can be helpful not only when thinking about beds but also when thinking about citizenship. Many Americans talk about how horrible our country is and how many faults that it has. No doubt, we do have faults, but we also have plenty to be proud of. By taking a broader perspective and changing our focus, we could feed a different wolf.
For example, this past Monday, Enes Kanter, a basketball player for the Boston Celtics, became a United States citizen and changed his name to Enes Kanter Freedom. “I am proud to be an American. Greatest nation in the world,” he tweeted. “The Land of the free, and home of the brave.” While I am certain that Freedom understands that ours is not a perfect nation, he also believes, based on his experience, that we are the best nation on earth.
Freedom was born in Switzerland while his father was in medical school in Zurich, but he and his family returned to their native Turkey when he was a child. During high school, he moved to the United States to play basketball. His experience growing up in Turkey left him with the understanding that a person there could be jailed for criticizing the country’s leaders.
To Freedom, our country provides a welcome change — and the ability to speak his mind freely. He changed his last name to Freedom in homage to the freedoms that our country provides — freedoms that others do not.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment since the day I stepped in America,” he said after practice on Nov. 30. “Definitely one of the most unforgettable — maybe the most unforgettable moment that I had in my life.”
Freedom has criticized the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the past. In 2017, according to Freedom, he had his passport revoked by Turkey and was placed by the Turkish government on an Interpol watchlist.
Freedom is also outspoken about players needing to understand the larger political realities of their sponsorship contracts. “The players need to do their research and they have to educate themselves before they put their signature on the paper and sign this like lifetime deals and stuff,” Freedom said.
“Everybody knows how I feel about some of the sponsors that we have. Like, Nike, to me, the biggest hypocrite company out there,” said Freedom. “Obviously, they are using these players to become the face (of Nike) like Cristiano Ronaldo for soccer, LeBron (James) for basketball and some of the other athletes, but they’re becoming puppets. I feel like we need to be careful of what we are wearing because every time you put those items on your feet or on your back, there’s so much blood and sweat and so much oppression on those items, so be careful.”
Agree with him or not, Freedom has the right to speak freely while in the United States, and he does. He also understands that we are the freest country on earth and counts himself blessed to live here.
If only all Americans felt the same way: blessed to be Americans. This would not mean that our country is perfect or that we should not improve but it would mean that we would feel more grateful and appreciative as we work to improve it. That change in focus alone would make our actions kinder, gentler and more loving. Just like the good wolf.
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