(This column is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King , murdered 43 years ago today. May his dream come true for all.)
They hold signs proclaiming their rights as “We the People.” I am reminded of my late father, rest his soul, who would say, “We? Whaddya mean ‘We?’ You gotta turd in your pocket?”
They want to “Take America Back.” Who do they want to take it BACK from? The people who were lawfully and legally elected in 2008 and 2010? Should we just stop having elections when we’re not happy with the results?
They talk about this mythical “Real America,” where apple pies cool on every window sill, where scrubbed, white-faced youth stand and salute when the flag goes by on the Veteran’s Day Parade. They talk about this land that never existed outside of the realm of the 1950′s and 60′s sitcom, where all the streets were clean, all the lawns were mowed, all the minorities were working in the garden or the kitchen and the only people of color you ever saw were domestic servants. They were referred to by their last names, aka “Rochester,” while their employers were never spoken of without the proper honorific of Mr. or Mrs. or Miss.
Those were the days. And the right wingers seem to believe that if they close their eyes real tight, click their ruby slippers together three times and repeat, “There’s No Place Like America” over and over, this imaginary nation will somehow come to be real. The rest of the world will bow to our every will because, by Golly, America Said So! And there will be peace between nations with a benevolent USA calling the shots. Because we know best. That’s the whole principal behind “American Exceptionalism.”
Would I want to live anywhere else? Well, I can say some nice things about Canada. Taxes are high, but everyone gets health care. They’re not spending billions upon billions of their people’s money on a military industrial complex that exists only to ensure its own continued existence.
I enjoyed my time in Japan. But I would always be an outsider there. American Exceptionalism ain’t got NUTHIN’ on Japanese Exceptionalism. They’re just not quite so forward in their bragging about it.
I’ve been in Spain, Italy, France, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines and Korea as well as the aforementioned Canada and Japan. I can think of nice things to say about all of them.
But I’m glad to live in America. I’m proud of my country. We GENERALLY tend to do the right thing. Usually, even when it’s the wrong thing, our hearts were in the right place.
Unless that thing it never was is a place where freedom of speech is outlawed. Where you have to stand before a judge to defend the things you said, the words you wrote, the thoughts you thought. A place where freedom of religion no longer means freedom FROM religion . Where religion is free as long as it’s the CORRECT religion that believes in the right, white Lord and Savior… not one of those brown-skinned, pagan, hindu-muslim-shinto-buddhist-druid religions that, were we ever to put it to a public referendum, I’m certain a plurality would vote for their banishment. We want prayer in school, as long as it’s a good Christian prayer. Muslims not welcome. No Jews, unless we have to. Certainly no Hindus or Buddhists. We want religious icons in public places. As long as they’re CHRISTIAN religious icons. A statue of Shiva at the Podunk County Courthouse? Blasphemy.
We love freedom, as long as it’s the freedom to do the things WE want to do. I love women. I married two before finding the right one. I am not sexually attracted to men (Well, other than Howie Long…and only if he COMMANDED me) so people of the same sex can’t HAVE the same rights I have. It doesn’t matter if you love someone as much as I love Gail. YOU don’t have the choice. EVERY ONE ELSE gets to make that choice FOR you.
We love our guns. Good God A’mighty how we love our guns! As progressive as I like to think I am, I also like guns. No problem with ‘em. They’re under lock and key. But do we really need 30-round handgun clips? If you’re being attacked, won’t the first 9 or 10 rounds be enough? Unless you’re being attacked by a band of terror doers, in which case your 30-round clip ain’t gonna help ya none nohow!
We love our individual prejudices. We hold our individual bigotries. They give us comfort in our superiority, even when life is treating us unfairly by letting “those people” get the jobs, the colleges, the loans that rightfully belong to us!
We feel our distrust of “the other” is righteous and instilled by nature. But we don’t like being called “racists” when we say racist things. We don’t like being called “homophobes” when we say things that are hurtful to gays. We just can’t stand it when “the politically correct crowd” allows black people to call each other “nigger” without so much as an uncomfortable gulp, but God forbid a white man use that word. And what are “they” so pissed off about anyway? I never owned a slave. Neither did my parents. Hell, you gotta go all the way back to the early 1800s to find someone in my lineage that owned human beings. So why can’t “those people” just lighten up about it? They’ve got one of “theirs” in the White House now, at least for a little while. Why do they want equality in all other areas as well?
When I was a boy, there was thing called “knowing your place.”
These illegal Mexicans what we got here. Who do they think they are coming over here, taking our jobs, using our facilities? When my great-grandparents came over from Germany, they took jobs, they used public facilities, but they had a piece of paper that SAID they could do it.
(Deep breath… exhale. Out with the teabagger air, in with the air of freedom. That’s better.)
Sarah Palin spoke of “real America” in her 2008 campaign. The other right wingers talk about “real America” when they speak in front of almost completely homogenous crowds of white Americans of Anglo-Saxon descent. They’re too polite, too smart to use the word “nigger”, but they sure know how to make you THINK that word… “Obama’s birth certificate, he wasn’t born here, he’s not one of us, he’s an outsider, he’s the OTHER! And he’s taking all your hard-earned money and giving it to THOSE people, wink-wink, who use it to buy their 40-ouncers and their hip-hop gangster rap music and why can’t they pull their pants up all the way and act like civilized REAL AMERICANS?”
Multi-culturalism ? It’s evil. Every single person of Irish, German, English, Danish, Italian, French, Belgian, Russian, and Eastern European descent who has been living here for generations KNOWS how evil multi-culturalism is. You treat other cultures with respect, it’s like…
It’s like… respecting…
(Another deep breath… exhale. Stop channeling the teabaggers. There. All better.)
Real America? Look outside. There it is. The trailer park you live in. The gated community. The public housing. The small, rural town. The crowded inner city. The obscure Montana mountain village. The urban jungle of south Los Angeles. There it is. It’s real. It’s America. It’s a great place to live. And we can make it better. We should TRY to make it better, anyway. And we WILL make it better, once we stop listening to the people who tell us it’s OK to be fearful of “the Other.” Once we learn to IGNORE the voices who cater to our racial fears and cultural bigotries. When we realize the truth of those words in the Declaration of Independence, ironic given the times in which they were written, that “All Men (and Women) are Created Equal.”
That’s the Real America, Sarah. Michele, the people who think you are an idiot are just as patriotic — perhaps even moreso — as those who support you. Newt, people will judge you by your actions, not just by your words. They will judge you not by the color of your skin, but by the content of your character.
And Trump? Just shut the fuck up and go away.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This Article First Appeared as “Where Is This ‘Real America’ the Teabaggers Long For? ” on Technorati.