The Real America, according to Hannity, Beck, Palin, and others, exists only in those states that are dominated by Republican politics. A cornerstone of the toxic labeling of today’s politics, the concept that liberals and their liberal states aren’t truly American has become the excuse du jour for dismissing political thought. Real Americans, apparently, reside in the rural areas of the Midwest and Southeast. They are all evangelical Christians who believe that the Founding Fathers established a Bible-based nation. They are also, it would seem, all libertarians who demand the complete withdrawal of the democracy from American life.
These rules that have been established, by the few and for the benefit of the many, are absolute and irrefutable. Catholics who don’t subscribe to the Catholic League diatribes of William A. Donohue are apparently excluded from American status. Liberals especially, need not apply; indeed the whole history of America where liberals have had involvement is being rewritten. FDR is no longer the rallying point for the greatest generation against the Nazis and Japanese, he was just in the right place at the right time. JFK no longer faced down Nikita Khrushchev, started the U.S. on the path to nuclear submarine dominance, or inspired the world changing space race. The America that once embraced, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore”, no longer has room for the full measure of its own native sons and daughters.
This is all of course ridiculous. The United States of America, as President Lincoln spoke, is dedicated to the “proposition that all men are created equal.” This friends, is an implicit reminder that we are all in fact, different. If Americans were homogeneous, there would be no need to point out our equality, the notion would be explicit. People are different, problems are different, and the solutions to people’s problems are different as well. A calculus teacher of mine liked to remind his classes that there was usually “more than one way to skin a cat”. That we have come to a point in our national journey where we the people believe in absolutes as a starting point for real problem solving is a real tragedy.
This bilateral schism in American political thought has cost us dearly recently; but our country still stands. The United States is perfectly capable of falling, as all empires have fallen…there are usually no exceptions. The idea that, less than 150 years since the last orgy of death in the Civil War, there are some fools who seriously contemplate its equivalent is a travesty. It is a travesty born of mistrust, disrespect, and misunderstanding. It is a great danger of our time that lives at the confluence of ignorance and pride run amok.
We really must get our facts straight, and turn away from the ad hominem attacks that are the foundation of modern politics. We create good legislation and solve big problems when we focus on the argument, and not the person doing the arguing. I can’t stand Rush Limbaugh, but if he argued that one plus one equaled two, then he would be correct. It does my cause no service to try and change the facts in order to win the argument, yet that idea is precisely the basis for modern politics. We are ripping ourselves apart in our attempts to win arguments for the sake of victory alone. Real America for Real Americans is the inevitable byproduct of the process.
Real America does exist from sea to shining sea; those on the coasts are every bit as American as the good conservative evangelicals I live among now. Lest we forget that New England was the seat of rebellion; that the Liberty Bell sounded in Philadelphia; that the Father of our Country, George Washington, was sworn in in New York; that the entrance of the Silver State into the Civil War, battle born Nevada, helped to swing the balance back to national unity; and that the industry and military bases of the Golden State make California a true arsenal for democracy.
Real Americans from every neighborhood, ethnic background, and religion have shed their blood for our nation. Liberals, Catholics, Mormons, Atheists, Mexicans, Guatemalans and more have served their country with honor. Are they exceptions to the Palin rule, or is our country’s bench just a little deeper than some conservatives seem to think? Maybe I am the biased one? Perhaps my experience is unique? Two of my closest friends are conservative Christian evangelicals, and my parents are devout Catholics and Carter Democrats. Neither side has kicked me out of the family…yet.
Real Americans, in my book, are decent folks who treat their neighbors and strangers as they would want to be treated. They care about their country; sometimes they care so much that they say or write things they regret, but they are strong enough to apologize. Real Americans live in every community I have traveled to in this great nation, and I have had the privilege of going from sea to shining sea. If you are having trouble finding the real ones, or if you despair about your nation, just turn off the television. Real Americans are always easier to see without cable news on in the background.
Perhaps you could tune in to The Rational Middle; we are always listening…