October 25, 2008
Over and over and over, I have cried out that merely being born in the United States of America, and/or serving in one of the branches of the country’s armed forces, even in combat, even being wounded in that engagement, does NOT make anyone an “American.” It makes one a citizen of the United States, and, in the case of military service, either a member of one of the military branches, or a veteran.
An American is one whose very soul is suffuse with the majestic ideals concerning both rights and the obligations that were enunciated by the founding fathers and by those who came after them, also expressing the same concerns.
The fathers were unconcerned whether one respected this country, but were wholly concerned that the citizenry might permit the country to engage behaviors that were unworthy of respect, behaviors that merited only utter condemnation, at home and abroad, and whether the citizenry would have the courage to correct the direction, restore the ship of state to its proper course. That is what the fathers worried about.
Sadly today, by every test, few in this country who call themselves American have even the first wafting scent of what that incredibly glorious title means, and moreover, what that incredibly glorious title demands . . . of each and every one of us.
It does NOT demand anyone join and serve in the military, though doing so might be a commendable sacrifice. What it demands absolutely is the “eternal vigilance” that Jefferson spoke of; eternal vigilance, not only of external threats to the nation, but much, much more so of internal threats by a government to every basic liberty.
What we have become is not a geography that contains the “brave,” though there are brave ones among us, but a land of the timid, and of the complacent and sedentary whose overarching pursuit is of convenience and the avoidance of inconvenience, and of those ignorant of our past and of the mechanics, how the machine was designed to function*, and of a population that by and large could not be less concerned about freedoms lost, or that may become lost.
On September 14, last year (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/09/14/politics/main3262322.shtml.), Senator McCain called for members of MoveOn.org to be "kicked out of the country.” Never has a more un-American sentiment been issued; equally un-American, yes, more un-American, no.
In 1978, the ACLU defended the First Amendment Rights — freedom of speech and the right to assembly — of the neo-Nazi Party, the National Socialist Party of America, in the US Supreme Court case #432 US 43; NSPA v Village of Skokie (IL). The Bill of Rights was NEVER intended to protect from government intrusion those behaviors the majority agreed with and supported, but those the majority and the government might loathe. Believing in that to one’s soul, and being fully prepared to defend the rights one might revile is what being an American is 100% about.
Even Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to his good friend Joshua Speed, said, “I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”