Sunday, November 14, 2004

Column 10: We're All (Still) Americans

We are all (still) Americans
by Ed Gurowitz

Here are three quotes I find disturbing.

Just prior to the election, a Kerry volunteer was canvassing in rural Ohio. At one house she was told: “Why are you bothering us? We’re Bush supporters, didn’t you see our flag?”

On November 3rd, Bob Jones III, President of the fundamentalist Christian Bob Jones University, sent a congratulatory message to President Bush that said in part: “God has granted America – though she doesn’t deserve it – a reprieve from the agenda of paganism…You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ.”

In a story in Sunday’s Bonanza, a Baptist minister from South Shore said: “The men who founded this country based this country’s platforms on Christian values; the Ten Commandments, which are moral principles to live by...we are getting away from those Christian principles.”

What I find disturbing about these quotes is that they reflect an arrogant assumption by some on the far Right that (a) they own the franchise on patriotism and can say who is patriotic and who isn’t, and (b) that the United States is a Christian country. I assert that the day these two assumptions become facts, if they do, the United States will cease to be the United States. These people seem to think they own the franchise on patriotism and that the President’s slim margin in the election obliges him to agree with this view and to forward their agendas through writing their beliefs into laws and appointing judges to ensure that these laws are upheld.

Contrary to the good pastor’s assertion, the men who founded this country were largely secularists and deists. Their values were Judaeo-Christian values (the Ten Commandments predated Christ by some centuries), and they went to great lengths to ensure that, whatever the religious makeup of the country, the government would be secular and inclusive, unlike the governments of Europe that were, then and now, tied to state religions and exclusive – in most cases their laws are based on the teachings of their state religion, and in some those who are of other faiths do not have the same rights of citizenship as those who profess the state religion. The Founders felt so strongly about freedom of religion that they put it first in the Bill of Rights.

I am a committed Liberal. I am also a Jew. I consider religion, while essentially a personal matter, to be a central part of my life and have always been active in my religious community, wherever I have lived. I am an American both by happy accident of birth, when my parents came here to escape Czarist and then Communist Russia and by choice – I could live anywhere, have traveled widely, and live here because I believe that the United States is by far the best place to live, politically, socially, economically, and by any other yardstick. I was an Eagle Scout, fly the flag on holidays, and never fail to exercise the privilege of voting. I also, as you know, speak my mind on political issues and cherish the freedom to do so.

I am a Liberal, Jewish, Democrat American. You may be a Conservative, Christian, Republican American or a Socialist, Hindu, Green Party American, or an apolitical, atheist, Independent American. But I say this: We are all Americans, and by virtue of being Americans we are free to believe (or not) as we wish, and anyone who says that to hold a particular constellation of belief or non-belief disqualifies you as an American is so far out of line as to not know what an American is.

Next week I will address these issues as they occur on the local level here in Incline, but what I see happening on the National scene in the wake of the election is so worrisome, that I wanted to address that first.

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