July 4, 2011
USA – Click the LIKE button?
It’s a beautiful fourth of July here in the Pacific Northwest. What better than to sit at my computer, staring occasionally out into my lush yard for inspiration, and write a blog post about the USA. I’m going to click the like button several times on my country. But I’ve also configured this Facebook to display dislike buttons.
- I click like on our form of government. I like that people have to work really hard to get to be leaders, and can only assume power after the general population has given its permission. Leaders should be held accountable. Power corrupts. Separating the government into three independent branches was a stroke of genius.
- I click like that we have a handle on corruption. Generally speaking, people can’t bribe or cheat their way into positions of power and wealth. Neither can they use those positions of power for personal gain. I’m not saying it never happens, only that when people get caught bribing or taking bribes, it makes the news and everyone gets mad about it. We don’t accept corruption as normal behavior.
- I’m going to click the love button on freedom of speech. No one can tell you what to say or what to believe in the USA. You can’t be persecuted or singled out or have your rights revoked because of your convictions. The president can’t even stop a wacko fundamentalist from burning a holy book. He can only ask nicely. Step back from the specific issues in that fiasco and see how awesome it is that we have that sort of freedom.
- I click like on the American spirit of entrepreneurship, sometimes also referred to as pragmatism. We are doing-oriented and like to start things. We are open to the new and not necessarily stuck in the past. Tradition is not everything.
- I click like on our emphasis on equality. In America there are no legal limitations imposed on people because of their race, age, religion or pedigree. The fact that we just now, finally, have our first non-white president shows that we have gone through a process but that we are working out a core value of equality. We are going in the right direction.
I’m no expert on the founding fathers and the birth of my country, but I’m pretty sure these five things I like and love about it are consistent with their founding vision. And I’ve got to say: “Good job guys! I’m glad to live in the aftermath of your dream.” I think they would consider that high praise indeed.
A Christian Nation?
As an aside, can I just mention how silly it is to get involved in all these discussion about whether the founding fathers were Christians or how much their vision was influenced by the Bible? I’m a Christian and I can’t bring myself to care. The premises behind that discussion are all weird:
Are people trying to prove that since we are “a Christian nation” we need to have “christian laws”? How could that fit with the Christian emphasis on conversion and discipleship? Only followers of Jesus are called to, well, follow him.
Or is the point supposed to be apologetic as in: “Look, you people who reject Christianity are biting the Christian hand that feeds you! It was only because of Christianity that his nation was founded and it can only continue if it holds on to Christian values.” To that I respond that this just too debatable to convinced the informed. You can make a very strong case for the enlightenment as the moving force behind the American ideal. Probably it was a combination. It would be ridiculous to claim that all the founding fathers were evangelical fundamentalists. In any case, if you want to convince someone of your view the best approach is to show them how beautiful and powerful it is, not to use some questionable, moralistic historical argument.
What bothers me the most about the “Christian America” rallying cry is that it so often comes packaged with the claim of American election. “God founded our nation, and God chose us to be a light to the world. We are better than all the other nations. Oh, and don’t criticize the nation that God founded.” This leads to bizarre bed-fellows, like the Christians who one day condemn us for having strayed form our Christian roots and the next day defend bellicose military action as righteous.
The dislike buttons
I’ve never been one of those “rah-rah, yay us” types. That’s why I used a little programming trick and added a dislike button to my America entry. But I wonder, is it really the US of A that I’m disliking here? Maybe not.
- I click the dislike button on attempts to curb freedom of speech and conscience. We can’t seem to get it into our heads that freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to express MY view. That freedom of speech exists in all totalitarian societies. There is always freedom for one point of view. Freedom of speech means affirming the right of expression for all views, even the ones you consider idiotic or harmful. Anything short of that is modified totalitarianism, not freedom of speech. The right wants to ban blasphemy and the left wants us to legislate PC language and they are both missing the boat. Both gay and Christian activists attempt to foster their decisions of conscience on the rest of us. I don’t think our culture as a whole really understands the meaning of free speech yet.
- I click dislike on the ignorant arrogance that so characterizes American interaction with the rest of the world. Our knowledge of the world is essentially a collection of cliches and generalizations which we happily use to make major decisions, often affecting millions of people.
- I click dislike on our suspicion of “the other,” especially of the foreign peoples living among us. While our laws teach equality we allow ourselves great exceptions. Singer Larry Norman has the line, “You say all men are equal, all men are brothers. Then why are the rich more equal than others?” Indeed, why are the (you name it) more equal than others?
- I click dislike on the way that our good predilection to action and innovation has led us over the edge to an obsession with the latest and greatest. This fuels a frantic economy of marketing, acquisition, and waste. The rest of the world envies our example of consumption and strives to imitate it.
- I click dislike on our sectarian spirit. You either talk and walk like us, or you are not one of us. Our much vaunted individualism is actually a bit of a myth. We generally don’t think independently. We align ourselves with a particular view and that ends all discussion. We swallow any camel as long as it is “what we believe.” We interact with others on the basis of bumper sticker phrases and unlikely misconceptions. Will it all explode one day?
My like buttons are definitely bigger than my dislike buttons. And the main reason is that my dislikes are basically distortions of my likes. So on the whole I can say that I’m really glad and mostly proud to be an American on this fourth of July. But people, we’ve got a lot of work to do.