Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How to Be An American

I suppose I could be as stupid as Pat Robertson, and say that someones illness is a result of their moral and political corruption.

But I'm not that stupid.

I was saddened to hear that White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's cancer had returned. Not because I deem him a friend, or even a patriot. I don't. I disagree completely with his politics. But I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone. Suffering hurts people.

Which segues into what I originally wanted to write. I was listening the other day to Thom Hartmann on the radio, and he was interviewing co-author Chriss Winston. I heard Ms. Winston state that there were teachers in America who were blaming America for 9/11. She presented no examples, no proof. Anyone listening knew she was hedging on probability. And there probably are a few fringe teachers who are doing just that. The discussion was moving toward the reason why 9/11 happened, and Mr. hartmann asked Ms. Wilson to try and see it from the perspective of the perpetrators. Oh no, she cut him off. "No can do." She wouldn't go there. She in fact stated that she as much thought that Tom was blaming America for 9/11, despite him clearly stating he was reiterating the reasons the perpetraotrs of 9/11 used for the attack.

Which lead me to hear two things. First, the inability of people to hear the truth, or even facts, when they cling to their dogmatic points of view. But I heard something even more disturbing. And that was this woman's inability to connect to compassion.

Almost every one knows that the Latin root of the word means to suffer together with. It basically means that one can see anothers pain, and a wish to remove the suffering. Inherent in this idea is the thought of walking a mile in someone else's shoes.

Now we can read the Declaration of Independence, "
all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Now, are we to assume that this phrase "all men" only means white American men? Or just all Americans? Would we not instead say that this phrase is intended to mean all mankind, which includes Muslims?

And if that is true, what is a better way to understand their rationale that 9/11 was their pursuit of anything? By further bombing them? By subjugating them by force? Or by trying to reason and understand their perspective?

I venture to you that America, if nothing else, was founded on the concept of political and religious compassion. That for too long the bonds of both had held men in slavery, and that there is a better way. And that better way recognized the suffering of others, and created a political solution that allowed for the freedom and liberty we all want.

So how is it that an author of a book entitled How To Raise An American completely misses the point? In fact, she refused to go there. Or when was the last time you heard a televangelist preaching love for our enemies Saddam Hussein, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Kim Jong Il? What's missing from this picture?

It is sadly this kind of dogmatic ideology that will not produce patriots, but rather nationalists that will continue to propagate wars. It will also lead to the ignoring of, and ignorance of, our founding values.

Mr. Snow may be a political rival. He may be fascist. He displays an ignorance of the Constitution in saying there are no checks and balances, and despite his, what I consider jingoism, I still know he is American; and has the right to pursue Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Having seen friends die of cancer, and seen the suffering of families caused by disease, I know first hand what pain it produces. Because of that, I wish he and his family good health. And I know many more people feel the same way I do, regardless of their political persuasions.

And in this land of Constitutional liberty, that's what it means to BE an American.

Teach that to your kids.


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