Feet on the ground – head in the clouds.

It’s not anti-American, it is just too American for some

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Lately this stupid “anti-American” tag is getting thrown around more and more.  Partly because of the Reverend Wright debacle and a super patriot named Nash McCabe, partly because it’s political season and those with no substance sling mud.  I’m getting tired of hearing things labeled un-American or anti-American as if there is some sort of board of Americanism certifying certain ideas.  If you understand anything about this country, you should understand the 1st Amendment and our freedom of speech.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  

The 1st Amendment gives us much more than the freedom to shout, it gives us the freedom to shout against the status quo.  The right to assemble isn’t for Sunday gatherings in the park, it’s for protest and speaking against the actions of the government, or whatever the issue deems.  The point of the 1st Amendment to our Constitution was to give people the power of a voice and the freedom to associate and collaborate on ideas.  The intention of the 1st Amendment is to make every American a critic of public policy, to keep the government in check.  

What ignorant simpletons take for granted or even attack is actually quite revolutionary.  Not everywhere in the world can a rational discourse take place where people can present diametrically opposed viewpoints and have a peaceful ending.  Take for example the recent protests-turned-assaults over the freedom of Tibet.  It’s absolutely American to disagree, to say what’s on our minds even if it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world.  It’s anti-American to suppress that voice.

We won’t lose by accepting the voice, even if we don’t accept the idea or the argument.  That’s why it’s stupid when people label everyone who speaks out against the war, exposes corruption in government or brings a devastating negative market externality to our attention an America-hating liberal.  It’s not an act of hatred to speak out against a corrupt government but of a patriot.  

“… God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty…. And what country can preserve its liberties, if it’s rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334 (C.J. Boyd, Ed., 1950)

The people who built this country would be ashamed of such a rejection of their ideas.  The people give power to the government and not the other way around.  Free speech, press, petition, assembly go along with our right to the free exercise and the protection from the establishment of religion.  This entire American experiment began with much more than the simple minds that think anything they disagree with is anti-American.  We exist to pass more freedom on to the next generation, not less.  It is only through a free press and everyone speaking do we really see what is “American”.  

America includes people from the “far-left blogosphere” and the “vast right-wing conspiracy” and everyone in between.  From the apathetic to the uninformed; or the college professors and high school teachers.  People of all stripes inhabit this country, and only the people make it what it is today.  I’m a firm believer in the history of this country — from the first strokes for the Declaration of Independence to the Federalist Papers and Constitution — and a humble and honest critic of its mistakes.  That doesn’t make me, my ideas or me saying them anti-American.  I’m just anti-mistakes and extremely proud of my country.

On the Tim Russert Show this Sunday (05/04/08), Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia actually discusses the idea of things being “un-American”. I’ve found Justice Scalia and I don’t often agree, but here we have consensus. He mentions that he can’t imagine in the course of French politics or [insert country] politics, the idea of saying something is un-French. Americans truly do identify with flag more than with blood or specific birth location, and that’s not a bad thing. It just creates more demand for things (his example was the House un-American Activities Committee) that are inherently more un-American than the behaviors we’re trying to prevent.


If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas. -G. Bernard Shaw


The sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language, and no single language is capable of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension. -Ezra Pound


The mark of a well educated person is not necessarily in knowing all the answers, but in knowing where to find them. -Douglas Everett

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