America "" Love It or Leave It!
I came of age with those words plastered on car bumpers, windows, even the television. It was a time of great protest in America; a time when we tore ourselves apart in anger, frustration, hatred, fear, and most of all, desperation.
It was a time when we had a president who was, by his own admission, paranoid "in the defense of freedom" and who willingly and openly tried to destroy freedom in order, in his own words, "to save it."
It was a time when we were fighting a war that had begun with full and enthusiastic support from the American people, but which, as it dragged on and on without resolution, became more and more unpopular.
It was a time when an entire segment of the citizenry of America was without equality, without respect and, in some places, without rights whatsoever.
It was a time when the American Dream seemed so far from reach for so many, and a time when it appeared that the nation itself had been built on lies, misrepresentations and illusions.
Some of us--mostly quite young and mostly quite naïve-- rose up in protest. In response, some--mostly older and mostly equally naïve--reacted in anger and intolerance.
America--Love It or Leave It!
I can remember, very well, the anger that statement caused in me.
The idea was simple, of course: if you didn't like what you saw or heard or experienced here, then go somewhere else, plain and simple. But the concept was far more insidious than that: if you don't agree with us--those in power--then you had no place in this land of the free and the brave. Dissenters did not belong and were not welcome. To those who were saying these things, it was, just that: simple and plain. To some of us it had echoes of another time and another country that was evil. It was the same philosophy used by Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin and others in order to control opinion and power.
But beyond that, what we were being told was that dissent is no more than complaining; that it serves no purpose beyond trying to cause trouble. Ignored was the fact that the things about which we were voicing dissent were true and wrong; we were finding fault and how dare we?
"You live in the best country in the world and you don't appreciate it," they said. "We're the greatest nation on earth and you're not satisfied! Leave!"
I always was amazed that, when I asked what other countries those who said this had lived in, almost universally, they said "none."
"How do you know we're the best then?" I would ask.
"Because we're America!" they would shout, as though it should be plain to a blind man.
As I was reading online this afternoon some comments in response to President Obama's inauguration, most of what I saw was supportive--even by those who said they had not voted for Obama. There was a couple, however that cause me to stop and think, thrown back into that period of time I have just described.
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