Janet--I guarantee I didn't identify those Bryozoan colonies myself! Closest I could come to figuring out what they were was something escaped from the set of an Aliens movie. I sent the pix out to a couple of biologist friends for the ID. They still give me the heebie-jeebies when I see them in the water, and I'm very careful not to dump my kayak if I'm anywhere near them!
I agree with you: the best guide to values isn't words, but actions. Watch what is done, not what is said, whether it's TRCP or the U.S. in general.
Many of us haven't had the range of travel experience that Nora seems to have had ("do a little travel, folks. You may just realize how much we DO shine.") , but I've strayed outside the U.S. borders a couple of times. I would say that our "shine" is inconsistent, at best. I've mentioned Vietnam. But Uncle Sam also gave me a couple of years in Panama in the 8th Special Forces Group. There I occasionally taught, to my eventual regret, at the infamous School of the Americas, where we trained the military and police for a number of Latin American autocracies and military dictatorships, including those of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina . . .
I later lived and traveled in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. In the first two, I could see first-hand the effects of supporting undemocratic governments and arming, training, and advising their security forces. The Guatemalan military in particular put our supplies and training to use in a campaign against their indigenous population that many refer to as genocidal. Nearly 200,000 Maya Indians were killed by government troops.
In Honduras, the U.S. trained and supplied military kept themselves in political power for nearly 25 years without elections. In Nicaragua, we armed and funded the Contras in an illegal attempt to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, using tactics that we would, today, call terrorism.
Although I never visited El Salvador, our relationship with their government and military had similar results. During the Salvadoran Civil War, the U.S. supported government was kept in power by death squads and by the Salvadoran military, again trained, equipped, and advised by the U.S. The infamous Atlacatl Battalion, armed with M16s and firing ammuntion bought for them by the American tax payers, murdered 800 civilians, over half of them children, in the El Mozote Massacre.
I regret not having had the opportunities to see our "shine" that Nora has had. I do, however, have some grasp of the realities of that shine.