16 October, 2016
If the American endeavor has any core and any enduring coherence, that core and that coherence consists of abiding ideas which informed and insightful citizens hold to be self-evident truths. Taken together as they surely should be, these foundational ideas and fundamental convictions establish that is America is a state of mind, a quality of character, and a code of conduct.
America is not about a specific ethnicity, nor a certain complexion, nor a particular religion. People who think America is a White, Christian, European, Patriarchal, Straight, nation may well be “birthright citizens,” but they are not and barring a comprehensive change of view, never will be authentically patriotic Americans.
As M. G. Oprea correctly states in a 20 June 2016 post in the Federalist:
“The entire project of America is rooted in the fact that you don’t have to be from any particular place or claim a certain ethnic background to be an American. This truth is part of what makes America so exceptional. It’s what the country was built on, the idea that anyone can come and make his home here and become a citizen. We have birthright citizenship, which means if you were born in America you get to become a U.S. citizen, regardless of your ethnic heritage.”
America, as it was conceived and launched, has receptivity and inclusivity in the warp and woof of its formulation. Our practice has too often and too long not aligned with our principles, but that reality demonstrates a failure and a flaw in our efforts not a fault or an error in our controlling ideals.
If this is hard to see, it may be because too many people have relegated these ideals to relic status. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, the Gettysburg Address, the “Ask Not” speech, and the More Perfect Union address have been consigned to history, and while they have a historical context, they are not merely artifacts nor talismanic relics. Essentially these guiding documents, properly understood, fully appreciated, and correctly interpreted are eighteen compelling, vibrant, and as yet unrealized, commitments.
Authentically patriotic Americans have abiding commitments to the following:
1. Human equality
2. Inherent rights
3. Governments of just powers derived from the consent of the governed
4. A mutual pledge to one another
5. Ongoing perfection of the Union
6. Establishing justice for all
7. Ensuring peace among all citizens throughout the America
8. Providing a common defense for every part of the Union
9. Promoting the well-being of all Americans
10. Ensuring the liberty of all current and future Americans
11. Equal protection of due process of law for every American
12. Prohibition of involuntary servitude for any American not convicted of a crime
13. Unabridged voting rights for all citizens of age
14. Free political expression via speech, petition, publication, and assembly
15. Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth
16. Since its country founding, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty;
17. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.
18. We are Americans. We will not turn on each another or turn on our principles
There are other widely held beliefs among 21st-century Americans, but these seventeen are the essentials. They unite the American endeavor from its origins in 1776 to the present, a span of 240 years. Anyone who denies any one of them may nominally be an American by birth or naturalization, such a person would not be a fervent and principled patriot.
Merely living in the United States and wearing a flag pin on one’s lapel or flying the flag outside one’s home is not sufficient. As America is about ideas, not ethnicity, so patriotism is about substance, not symbols. Americans have no one skin color, they have no single spiritual persuasion, they have no definitive ethnic heritage. What distinguishes Americans from all the other peoples of planet earth is a mindset and a set of socio-political convictions such as the preceding. The idea of birthright citizenship is familiar to many, but few recognize that American citizenship is not only a right but a responsibility. It is not solely an opportunity, but an obligation. Not just a chance, but a challenge!
No person nor anything except honor imposes this obligation. Whether or not we rise to the challenge is completely up to each of us. Nonetheless, 2016 is another time that tries the characters of us all, and once again, summer soldiers and sunshine patriots are insufficient to the need. They who refuse to “shrink from the service of their country”; but stand by it now will indeed earn the love and thanks of man and woman!
The Neoconfederate Republicans in general and Donald J. Trump, in particular, strike a hyper-patriotic pose, but their beliefs and behaviors are more similar to that in many European nations than the noble norm that characterized America and Americans at their best. Nationalism in most such countries is so wrapped up in ethnicity, language, and patrimony that others find it hard to integrate fully, let alone assimilate. A French friend of M. G. Oprea, once “told her how surprised she was to find that immigrants in New York City expressed such positive attitudes toward America when asked about it.” While the “land of opportunity” phenomenon contributed to these positive responses for sure; a more fundamental and pervasive factor was likely the fact that Americans did not have the same concepts of nationality and nationalism that Europeans had. Never forget that America was “Conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” as Lincoln put it. America emerged from the mind, rather than the mist.
In 2016 as rarely, if ever, before, authentic American exceptionalism and idealism are gravely imperiled. The enemy is not merely within, but they are legion. The demagogue America has heretofore been spared rampages among us as the nominee of a subverted, but significant, American political party. Arrayed against this demagogue and his legions stands a good, but hobbled leader and a confused and divided array of good, but unenthusiastic, supporters. Fanaticism stalks the land with an opportunistic authoritarian at the head of the horde. Summer soldiers and sunshine patriots must prepare for battle in the cold and gloom of autumn.
As the Dallas Morning Herald put it in their 7 September 2016 editorial: “Trump’s values are hostile to conservatism. He plays on fear — exploiting base instincts of xenophobia, racism, and misogyny — to bring out the worst in all of us, rather than the best. His serial shifts on fundamental issues reveal an astounding absence of preparedness. And his improvisational insults and midnight tweets exhibit a dangerous lack of judgment and impulse control."
What the Herald neglects to mention or perhaps does not recognize, is that what they call conservatism is not conservative, but reactionary. The heritage and high ground of America and Americanism are liberality and liberalism as expressed in the above-stated seventeen commitments. The Confederate perspective rejected all of these in its initial incarnation and did so more emphatically the second time around. Now, as the lethal theory of confederation rises again, they attack more stealthily and promote the cover story generated since the 1970s by reactionary propagandists. Various Republican officeholders have suggested various schemes for nullification of federal laws, especially the ACA. In Texas, reactionaries set off alarms about a longstanding set of military exercises - Operation Jade Helm – that reactionary talk radio and Internet propaganda mongers claimed was a scheme by the Obama Administration to impose martial law and take over states by extra-constitutional means. Among the alarmists was the governor of Texas who asked the Texas National Guard to shadow the U S Army. In fact, some used the word – invasion – to describe Jade Helm in apparent ignorance that the army of a nation cannot invade any part of that nation! Contrary to the propaganda of reactionaries, the United States of America is “one nation, indivisible.”
The subversive conceptions of the reactionaries are so pervasive that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and four Associate Justices gutted the Voting Rights Act’s enforcement mechanism due to their notion that voter suppression is a thing of the past. Not long after this updated version of Dred Scott, North Carolina enacted a law which a Federal Circuit Court said targeted Back voters with “almost surgical precision.” Nothing says – “The South shall rise again,” like precise disenfranchisement of black Americans. The Circuit Court ruling was a setback for the reactionaries in North Carolina, so they appealed. The Appeals Court upheld the ruling; so like the Energizer Bunnies of Bigotry they are, the N C Republicans took it to the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice and the three surviving Associate reactionaries voted to void the ruling, but four liberal Associates voted to uphold. Consequently, the Confederate resurgence momentarily stalled. In true, Confederate fashion, the N C reactionaries declared their intentions to reinstate their voter suppression via county election boards that they dominate.
As this makes clear, in the Confederacy, liberty, justice, and equal rights for all do not slow down the march of White Supremacy. Now, these thinly disguised subversives hear the bugle launching a new charge against the oppressive central government of their ancestral fever dreams. Their boogie-woogie bugle boy reviving the Confederacy is none other than, Donald J. Trump.
Many people who support Trump have been described as the ‘basket of deplorables’ [“The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.”] by Hillary Clinton “LGBT for Hillary” fundraiser Friday night in New York. With little time lost, DJT announced that the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, etc. people Hillary denounced were “so many great Americans.” The Donald went further on 15 September 2016 in a speech before the New York Economic Club saying: "The people Clinton calls deplorable are the most admirable people I know.”
In a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition of human equality, how can “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” people be great Americans and among the “most admirable people” a major party presidential candidate knows?
Do great Americans deny others equal protection of the laws; the right to vote; the blessings of liberty? Do great Americans impose involuntary servitude on other Americans duly convicted of no crime? Do great Americans falsely pledge over and over in their youth an allegiance to a Republic with liberty and justice for all and then, only champion liberty and justice for people who look like, think like, believe like, and love like they do? If the answers to all those questions are not resoundingly in the negative, then where is the great America these great Americans purport to live and love? It is nowhere on planet Earth, and the South of 1861 to 1865 without question or limitation has risen again! The great Americans Donald Trump extols and so admires do not reside in the USA; they live in the country they revived in the 1950s and revere today: The Confederate States of America!
The CSA, a realm of abductors and enslavers, came to a deserved and bloody end more than 150 years ago. For nearly a century after that, unrepentant White Supremacists tried to keep it alive in spirit if not in fact. Then, the Southern Strategy of the Nixon-led Republican Party spread the plague throughout the nation. As this video from a Pence town hall shows: Trumpsters do not bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States nor to the polity it ordained and established 237 years ago. They say they want a revolution if Hillary Clinton wins. It is a high fidelity echo of the fall of 1860: https://youtu.be/UCTn3q-2XOY
In 2016, we must not betray those who gave the last, full measure of devotion by meanly losing the truest and best hope of humankind. We must not allow the undoing of the progress made. We must not allow the United States of America to be taken backward to the most benighted and fundamentally abhorrent periods of its history. It is time for all Americans of genuine and principled patriotism to answer the trumpet’s summons and continue the long, twilight struggle to advance the never ending perfection of our hallowed and precious Union and uphold the Republic, indivisible with liberty, equality, prosperity, and justice for all!