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Collie's Musings

My responses to an email sent out to a mailing list. Here's the full text of the original email, which will open in a new window for you. On this page, the original email comments that I chose to reply to are indented and framed by the carets.

Amusingly, I later discovered the original email was so full of innacuracies that it turned up on the Urban Myths Reference website as well. Enjoy!

Copyright © 2001 B. "Collie" Collier
Seemed like a good idea at the time... ;-)


      From: <name deleted, since I unsurprisingly don't have permission to print it ;)>
      Sent: Wednesday, October 17, 2001 4:01 AM
      Subject: Re: An American Speaks Out

      As an American citizen who's spent several years living in a foreign country, I'm proud to be American. When I was a child my father taught me that in many of the places I traveled, I might well be the only American those people ever met. Thus it was incumbent upon me to be someone I and my country could be proud of. I've tried hard to do that through all my life, and I know what it's like to be the minority, and a guest in a foreign land.

      I've also tried hard to be a clear-headed voice of reason in issues of crisis. I'm not stupid enough to think my country is always flawless, but I am a firm believer in the entirety of Carl Schurz' quote, "My country right or wrong; when right, to keep her right; when wrong, to put her right."

      As such I find earnest but misinformed tirades like the following extremely disturbing. In the examples of 'wrong' behavior is the following:

      Rocklin, CA - School officials are sued by ACLU to remove "God Bless America" from main sign in front of school on the basis that it could be "upsetting to some students and is generally offensive."
      Broken Arrow, Oklahoma School officials remove "God Bless America" signs from schools in fear that someone might be offended.
      Berkeley, California bans U.S. Flags from being displayed on city fire trucks because they didn't want to offend anyone in the community.

      I believe firmly in the separation of church and state. I'm not christian, nor do I like that religion at all. I don't consider behavior like that listed above to be wrong -- I consider it, in fact, one of the strengths of our country that we don't have to run crying to some fictional Big Daddy when we get a booboo.

      In the case of the Berkeley incident, the smallest of research would have turned up the fact that the "top department brass" ordered those flags removed for what I thought was a most patriotic reason -- the fire trucks would be going out into the student community, and the flags were attached in a rather makeshift fashion. Someone in the fire department brass, wise in the peculiar ways of students, suspected there'd be a pitched battle over the flags as the students attempted to remove and deface them, and the firemen attempted to defend them. The fire department was, as noted in the article, looking for less makeshift ways to attach the flags to the trucks. Furthermore, the president of the firefighters' union agreed with the action, for the reasons stated.

      Please note, I think the media actions noted in the email I am addressing were on a par with the usual insipid, brainless pabulum ordinarily spouted by those witless corporate shills. However, tell me why it's a bad thing for the fire department leadership to both preserve the symbol of our country, prevent a riot in the streets, maintain the fire-fighting-only goals of the department, and keep the peace? Tell me why an emergency seems to mean that we should abandon some of our most cherished national institutions, like separation of church and state, and freedom of expression?

      I found myself thinking, in effect, "if this writer is so inaccurate with their examples of 'wrong' behavior, what else will they spout as 'fact'?" Sure enough, there was more peculiar re-writing of history...

      First of all, it is not our responsibility to continually try not to offend you in any way. This idea of America being a multi-cultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Americans, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language, and our own lifestyle. This culture, called the "American Way" has been developed over centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom. Our forefathers fought, bled, and died at places such as Bunker Hill, Antietam, San Juan, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf, for our way of life.

      Not our responsibility... true. However, courtesy and honor compel rational, fearless adults to have some consideration for those around them. Secondly, as a student of anthropology, the above inaccuracies about the "American Way" just make me wince. We ARE multi-cultural, like it or not. We are a seething mass of varying subcultures, based on age, class, gender, geographic location... you name it, there's probably a subculture for it.

      However, this is not a detriment to us! We are the United States of America -- it is precisely because of this wonderful ferment that we are as strong as we are. It is because we do not NEED to quash variety in all its wonderful forms that we are the great, wonderful, terrifying, confusing, contradictory, beloved country we are. I find it inspiring, not frightening, that people are willing to fight and die for this strength.

      Let us not fool ourselves -- we do not need to hide behind religious oppression and a stifling cultural uniformity, like the Taliban. We are big enough and bold enough and strong enough to embrace change, not fear it.

      We speak English, not Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society - learn our language!

      True. This I agree with. However, I also think as Americans we'd do well to learn a language or two besides English. What better way to learn what is best in other cultures, bring it into our own, and continue to grow in strength and wisdom? An educated populace does not fear learning.

      "In God We Trust" is our national motto. This is not some off-the-wall, Christian, Right Wing, political slogan - it is our national motto. It is engraved in stone in the House of Representatives in our Capitol and it is printed on our currency. We adopted this motto because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation; and this is clearly documented throughout our history. If it is appropriate for our motto to be inscribed in the halls of our highest level of Government, then it is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools.

      God is in our pledge, our National Anthem, nearly every patriotic song, and in our founding documents. We honor His birth, death, and resurrection as holidays, and we turn to Him in prayer in times of crisis. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture and we are proud to have Him.

      *sigh* I'm so tired of this sort of 're-writing of history' crap. DO THE RESEARCH. The first permanent white settlement here were the Puritans, who fled religious repression to live freely here and, shamefully, almost immediately instituted religious repression to benefit their version of god. That is the 'glorious' basis for all the harping on the christian deity here. Our country was founded by men of wisdom and forethought, the vast majority of which were NOT christian, who deliberately enshrined separation of church and state.

      Furthermore, that motto was taken from our national anthem -- which was written on a slave ship. Do I think we should stop singing our national anthem, due to the unfortunate circumstances of its writing? Emphatically NO. But I DO think, as educated and rational citizens, that we should be aware of the irony -- if only to remind ourselves to never let something like slavery occur in our great country again.

      Furthermore, the motto was certainly not part of our country's original creation. The phrase first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864 (NOT 1776), and became obligatory on all U.S. currency in 1955. It wasn't until 1956 that this 'national motto' was forced upon us all. I DON'T think it's appropriate to use it -- it's a clear mixing of church and state. (For those interested in more research, try Google. Putting in "national motto" gave me this right off the bat, as well as many more options.)

      We are proud of our heritage and those who have so honorably defended our freedoms. We celebrate Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Flag Day. We have parades, picnics, and barbecues where we proudly wave our flag. As an American, I have the right to wave my flag, sing my national anthem, quote my national motto, and cite my pledge whenever and wherever I choose. If the Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don't like Uncle Sam, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet.

      Okay, now we have faulty logic here... worship of (the christian) god is being conflated with the right to freedom of expression, a salute to those that fought to defend our rights, and pride in heritage... plus there's the charming addition that you should piss off if you don't agree. What happened to reasoned debate and freedom of expression?

      The American culture is our way of life, our heritage, and we are proud of it. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. We are Americans, like it or not, this is our country, our land, and our lifestyle.

      No desire to change? Emphatically not true. It is our willingness to change and grow that makes us great. It is our willingness to listen, learn, and adapt what we hear about "how you did things where you came from" that makes the 'whole' of the United States of America into something far greater than its individual components. What the American culture fortunately is NOT is a fearful cowering away from any change, secure in the stagnant belief of a fictional, mythical 'Golden Age.'

      Our First Amendment gives every citizen the right to express his opinion about our government, culture, or society, and we will allow you every opportunity to do so. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great American freedom: the right to leave.

      I could just as correctly suggest this advice to the author. They are whining, complaining, and griping about things not being as nice and simple and pristine as they'd like. Well, kiddo, welcome to the real world, where the adults live. Either face the fact that life is more complex than your desired simplistic, childish binaries of 'good us' and 'evil them' -- or leave for someplace where the nice fundamentalist reverends or mullahs or senators or dictators will tell you what to think, and you won't have to make any difficult decisions about tolerance any more.

      (If you agree, please forward to your American friends)

      Ah, a nice slap in the face as a closer -- an implied 'if you don't agree you're not an American.' This is, quite frankly, insulting. I may think what (generalized) you have to say is moronic... but it IS YOUR RIGHT, here in America, to say it. I shall continue to defend that right, and speak out against those who, due to fear disguised as pseudo-patriotism, wish to infringe upon that wonderful, American right.

      I'm an American, too, dammit. I don't expect everyone to be just like me. I'm not afraid of change or difference in my fellow citizens. And if you agree, please forward to ALL your friends... because to me, true Americans aren't afraid -- either to have friends that aren't American, or to learn and grow, or to be tolerant.

      "Those who are willing to trade freedom for security deserve neither freedom nor security."
      -- Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father

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      Last Updated: Thu Oct 18 2001

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