Wednesday, May 8, 2002

This Land is My Land...Not Yours!

I try terribly terribly hard to not expose myself to the opinionated ignorami of the world. I only read fiction and the fluffiest of magazines, I never pause at CNN or Fox News when I'm channel-surfing, I never open a newspaper except to peruse the comics and work the crossword. But unfortunately, I still have to live here in the world with the rest of the people, and some of these people actually go out of their way to insert stupidity into my field of vision. Particularly in my email.

Today I received an email from my mother, which had been forwarded three or four times before it reached her; it contained an Op-Ed piece from a Tampa newspaper, along the general lines of "If you don't like America, then leave." Like all such pieces, it was utterly riddled with false logic and idiotic assumptions; but to make it all the worse, it was categorically wrong in two of its material facts.

Well, stupidity and bad logic I can pass up, with a terse reminder to my mother that I don't share her redneck opinions and don't like forwarded emails unless they're funny...but material facts have to be corrected, so I sat down and interleaved this ridiculous piece with my own opinions and the correct information (and then sent it out to everyone on all of the forwarded email lists). It's my favorite form of writing: the Well-Argued I thought I'd reprint it here for you:


Why shouldn't natural-born Americans adapt to new things? All living creatures must adapt to new circumstances, new influences, new lifestyles, or else they die. Nothing in this world is static...even the rocks and earth we live on are slowly shifting from one place to another.

I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Americans. However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the "politically correct" crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others.

It is not our Patriotism that offends others: it is our arrogant assumption that we are better than everybody else, that our merest whims are more important than other people's lives, that what we want is what everybody must be forced to want. From cheap sweatshop sneakers to politically-price-controlled crude oil, the US uses the rest of the world as it's workforce and resource, with absolutely no regard for the welfare of the people in the countries with which it trades.

So long as we get our oil cheaply, we don't care what the grotesquely rich Arab leaders do to their poverty-stricken people; so long as we get our Nikes for under $5 each (so we can give them a 2000% markup), we don't care what sorts of conditions the workers of Asia must endure...the conditions that daily inspire them to flee their homes and their ancestors for a scary life in an alien land.

Many peoples of the Third World (as we call it) look on America not as a land of opportunity and freedom but as a country of bloated vampires who glut themselves on everything and give nothing back. When they do get here, it is often not in a spirit of seeking opportunity and working for a better life, but in expectation of becoming the vampire instead of the victim.

It is THAT image that the "politically correct" would like to see changed, not our pride and patriotism towards our own nation. Waving our flags around and saying our Pledge of Allegiance does not forgive the evil that is done across the globe in our name.

I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to America. Our population is almost entirely comprised of descendants of immigrants. However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. This idea of America being a multicultural 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 has been developed over centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.

What the author seems to be saying is that there was some cut-off date for cultural development in the United States. Let's say, for argument's sake, that cut-off date was at the time of the Great Irish Potato Famine; that when every Irishman who was going to come to America had already done so, America became a static culture. Of course, let's forget for the moment that the Irish immigrants were looked upon as uncouth savages by the Americans already in place for about three generations after those first Ellis Island arrivals; let's forget that the Irish were the subject of jokes and outrages for decades after they came; let's forget for the moment that the population of the United States is now so inundated with Irish blood that we celebrate St. Patrick's Day all across the country, but that seventy-five years ago someone would rather die than find themselves related to an Irishman. According to the author, what we apparently must remember, NOW, is that all the Asian immigrants, the Middle-Eastern immigrants, the Latin American immigrants must conform to a static version of American culture because no more cultural development is allowed.

That's just stupid. Culture never stands still. And it is the infusion of new cultures, different traditions, that made American Culture into the culture our author esteems so highly, and he has no right to demand that culture stop right where it is because that's the way he likes it.

Furthermore, I believe that it is our multiculturalism that makes the United States special, what gives us our strength and our sovereignty; I further believe that it is ignorance and intolerance that will make us weak as a nation, make us the easy dupes of fire-breathing political demagogues, immoral and unethical industrial tycoons, and eye-on-the-buck media moguls.

Please remember that the worst fascist dictators of our century, Hitler and Mussolini and Stalin, first destroyed the educated people, the new immigrants, and anybody who might object to being herded like sheep, before they were able to take power. I therefore automatically suspect anyone who preaches conformity.

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

Perhaps the author failed his foreign language classes in school? The citizens of the United States have always spoken and continue to speak many different languages. Now it is true that for any nation or culture to operate and progress, there must be a common language; and in this particular country the common language is American English. But language is a fluid and unstoppable phenomenon. Spend a day thinking about how many "foreign" words are used in your own everyday speech. Have you ever felt a little loco? Have you ever called anyone a putz? Have you ever gone out for dim-sum? Then you, too, are a diffuse multicultural citizen of this nation.

And then think back to those Spanish and French classes in high school. Do you remember how hard it is to learn a foreign language? In fact, think back to your high-school English classes and remember how hard it was to grasp the fine points of a language you already speak! A little patience might get you further than outright condemnation. Meeting people halfway is the best start for understanding each other.

The question of a National Language is very touchy. Yes, I think everyone should learn English; I also think that every effort should be made to help people to learn English, as it's not something that comes naturally...I furthermore think that everyone should learn proper English Grammar and Spelling if they are going to write in any public place. Having studied English extensively and worked very hard to perfect my writing skills, I am rather offended by people who don't bother to write well. But I do understand that all languages, and English in particular, are fluid and adaptable and ever-changing.

"In God We Trust" is our national motto. This is not some Christian, right wing, political slogan. We adopted this motto because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. 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.

Sorry, Sweetie, but you are wrong. First of all, our national motto is E Pluribus Unum, meaning "Out of Many, One" (usually translated as "United We Stand," though I read it as "All of these different things make up One greater thing"). Second, the men (there were no Founding Mothers) who drafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of this Nation were not all Christians. A number were Agnostics, more than one was an Atheist. There were Jewish settlers and Jewish temples in the Colonies before we even became the United States. The only reason there weren't Buddhists and Muslims around at the time was because none had arrived yet, such portions of the world still being pretty much closed to trade and travel.

It is furthermore a common misconception held by many (not all) Christians that they somehow own God...but God is at the center of all World Religions. Please remember that the Jews and Muslims worship the exact same God as the Christians do, that their faiths evolved from the same cultural and geographical area of the world.

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: Christianity is A religion, not THE religion. Just because you have perfect faith in your Savior and your Bible does not mean that everyone else in the world has no right to not have faith in your religion. It may say "In God We Trust" on our money, but the Constitution (which predates our monetary system) clearly sets forth that all Americans are free to follow any religion they choose, or none at all (please see Article I of the Bill of Rights, US Constition, to which the author will refer in the last paragraph of his article).

If 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.

The Stars and Stripes is a flag. I do not care much for that flag. It is not in the best of aesthetic taste, it is in fact much too busy, but there it is. It's part of our nation's symbolism. I do, however, object to this recent fad of flag-waving, as if the Flag of the United States were a hula-hoop or a pet rock, suitable for being taken up all of a sudden and then forgotten again.

Please remember, too, that Uncle Sam is a cartoon created by 19th-century newspaper artists, and not a real, official symbol. I usually find that Uncle Sam is trotted out whenever citizens are asked either buy something or to do something unpleasant, such as get killed in unjust foreign wars or pay excessive taxes...and I personally find him offensive. Not offensive enough to do anything about it, but enough to avert my eyes with disgust whenever he pops out at me. I personally think the Bald Eagle (which is the official symbol of our country) is a better representative: beautiful, powerful, fiercely territorial and consumately predatory.

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. This is OUR COUNTRY, our land, and our lifestyle.

Who are "WE"? Be careful where you scatter your "WE"s, honey. I strongly suspect that my definition and explanation of American culture and National identity differ dramatically from yours. And I do have a desire to see change, to watch America become better and more interesting, more beneficial to its residents and more inclusive of newcomers.

Our First Amendment gives every citizen the right to express his opinion 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, highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great American freedoms, THE RIGHT TO LEAVE.

The same goes for you, too, darling. If you think all these immigrants are spoiling the country, you also have the right to leave. Go start your own country (though I believe that was tried, once, and it didn't go very well for the Secessionists) with stripes and stars and Uncle-Sams everywhere you look, where everybody is exactly alike...just like you.

Many people do go away to other countries when they get sick and tired of dumb bunnies telling them what America is or isn't. I myself have often considered moving to British Colombia, particularly after Dubya became president. Americans often move to France and Canada and Mexico and England and all sorts of other places. Certainly not in the numbers as those who come here, but then most other countries don't accept new immigrants. Especially Americans. We are not so loved beyond our own shores, you know.

But yes, this is America, and we do have the right to complain about it. If you and I cannot complain about what we see as the shortcomings of our current government and the flaws in our national character, then we might as well just take that First Amendment and set it on fire.

And I think this bears repeating: our National Motto is "United we Stand." If you are going to refuse to support my right to freedom of speech, thought, and religion, then you are not uniting; if you do not support the rights of immigrants to bring their own special contributions and to maintain treasured features of their home cultures, you are not uniting; if you do anything to make another American feel unneeded and unwanted, you are not uniting: you are excluding.

If you want a static culture, try Egypt. It's only changed three or four times in the course of human history. Remember, it's a DRY heat.

Well, I found that very refreshing and cathartic. Here's something else refreshing and cathartic, and Oh So American:

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