I have never had someone tell me to go to hell, at least not seriously. Itís a refreshing experience, though I wouldnít recommend it over, say, a shower or maybe a nice relaxing back rub. Though Iím sure that it was not intended as such, I find my own imminent damnation a wonderful affirmation of my opinion-writing skills. Itís hard to be opinionated without someone who doesnít agree with you.
So, am I an America-hating, sacrilegious liberal? Right on one count, I suppose. I am not sacrilegious, if by that you mean that I am profane, or hate religion. I respect religion. But I am irreverent; I am critical of things that are generally accepted and I question authority. If this makes me a bad person, then I confess, but I like to think that this makes me the sort of person that we should all like to have around.
Next, we have the charge of liberal. Yes, I am liberal, and Iím damn proud of it. Why? Because a liberal is not a slave to accepted practice nor to authority for authorityís sake; a liberal is free of bigotry and hatred; a liberal is open to reform, and tolerant of other people and other views; a liberal is a giving person, generous with his or her time; a liberal is a person who is willing to fix things that are broken, rather than hanging on to old ways just for the sake of tradition. Gosh, could there be a worse insult? Too bad my accuser isnít a liberal. Then heíd perhaps be free of the bigotry that caused his hate-filled missive.
That brings us to the last accusation: Am I an America-hater? That charge I deny most vehemently. I love America. There is no other country I know that is so dedicated to freedom, justice and opportunity for all. But it is not a perfect place. No place on this Earth is perfect. So I express my opinions of things that I see as injustices, trampling of freedoms, and limiting of opportunities. Is this un-American? I donít think so.
If America is a country of lock-step drones who do not think for themselves, then yes, I am un-American. If America is a place where the weak and poor are ground under the boot heel of triumphant greed, then yes, I am un-American. If America is a country where people are to be silenced by hounding them out of town, by condemning them to eternal torment for speaking their minds or for daring to disagree with the power-brokers who tell the masses what to say and do and think, then yes, I am un-American.
My accuserís vision of an homogeneous America is not mine. I think that the variety of our people has always been our greatest strength. I think the intellectual and religious freedoms that are the backbone of our society are the reason we have become the dominant military, economic and cultural force on this planet. No other people would be as humble or as forgiving in our position. No other country would wield power with so much respect for the rest of the world.
But let us not be blinded by our love of America. It is not a perfect place. For any of us to sit back and say that it is, is a mistake. We are stronger than that. I think the American people can stand up and admit when they are wrong. My accuser does not. He sees only weak fools who must be kept in line with the whip, who must not be allowed to think for themselves lest they discover that perhaps there is a better way. I respectfully disagree.