Sunday, October 19, 2008

It's Un-American to call someone Un-American


So how about that mudslinging? Since we are now well into October (2 weeks until Election day!), we are fully entrenched in the greatest of election year traditions, the good old-fashioned practice of destroying your opponent’s character, credibility, etc. Sure, the negativity has been there all along, but there is something truly exceptional to the ways in which politicians throw decency to the wind in October. For the last several weeks, we have observed Obama’s persistent calmness during debates while McCain the Robot fumed and fidgeted and wandered into the depths of irrationality. I mean, someone at least get the guy a suit that doesn’t look like it’s strangling him. But that’s totally off topic.

I found myself tremendously irritated this week when Sarah Palin (in an attempt to be relevant outside of the realm of pop culture) made a cozy trip to North Carolina, where she made the following remarks at a heartwarming fundraiser:

"We believe that the best of America is in the small towns that we get to visit, and in the wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation…This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans.”

You know, we have spent the last eight years with the divisive, hypocritical language of George W. Bush, the rhetoric of “us” versus “them,” the exclusivity of the term “American,” and the never-ending manipulation of the meaning of patriotism. Who is this woman to say that certain parts of our country better represent our national ideals than others? I’m tired of being told that my personal views make me a second-rate citizen, and I’m really not in the mood to take this from someone who probably never took time off between hunting elk and funding programs to shoot down wolves from helicopters to actually read the Declaration of Independence. If I let myself get swept away by the idealism of it, I feel that the greatest part of this country is its diversity, that we can all have completely different creeds and still work together for the common good (the last eight years aside).

I was recently filling out a Danish Residency Permit (I’ll be headed to Copenhagen in the spring), and I lingered over the section regarding nationality. Whenever I had to consider this question in the past, it usually involved a process similar to describing the make up of the UN in one word and was eventually resolved with a hyphen. Yet the sample answer was very simple: was I American or Canadian? It has become so easy for us to think of the millions of ways that we are different from one another that the most obvious answer (at least to the rest of the world) seems completely foreign at times. So I officially declared to the fine country of Denmark that I was, in fact, American (not the whole host of other options that were flooding my mind) and carried on. Then I mailed my absentee ballot. In one afternoon, I felt more American than I’ve felt in a really long time, and my patriotic act didn’t involve slapping a yellow ribbon magnet on my Hummer and driving down Main Street to say hi to Andy Griffith. Because real America manifests itself in an infinite number of ways – that’s what makes it “American.” Now is the time for all of us anti-war, tree-hugging, freedom loving people to declare our American-ness because, for better or worse, this is our country too. Enough with the self-destruct button.

Unless McPalin wins. Then I’m recanting my promise to the Danish Consulate to leave the country by May of next year. I’m from Los Angeles – I can figure out a way around immigration laws.

So get out there and vote!
Laura Dominguez

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