Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gene Burmington: Being an Unpatriotic UnAmerikan with Sympathy

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This is a guest post by my friend Gene Burmington.

Cartoon: “The world is a carousel of bigots” by Slap Upside The Head (Mark)
Thought it fit. And was funny

Since McCarthyism and the rise of nationalism in America after resounding victories in a world war and other conflicts prior to Vietnam, we as a nation have been overcome by ideals that make our country wrong and others that make it weak.

See, the traditional segments of the country have a habit of calling out others as being unpatriotic or un-American. For instance, it's unpatriotic not to want to go to war and it's un-American to want to protect Muslim-Americans' free speech from reprisals from those of the more conservative caste.

Given that Islamic extremists have destroyed a great symbol of America with callous disregard for our values and human lives, it's soundly understandable on some levels. However, it's not understandable that citizens approach this horrible act by counteracting it with another horrible act: persecution of our own American peoples just because they fall into a minority, just because they belong to the same ethnic group as some enemies of America.

Let's back all this up to two centuries ago. Everyone applauds our Founding Fathers for the beginnings of a great new country and constitution. When our old enemies were the heavy-handed and boldly colonial British Empire, we were certainly at war but we did abstain from persecuting all British loyalists in the states, nor did we find ourselves with an eternal hatred for the British after they burned down the White House, itself a far more poignant symbol of American values.

In 1812, British soldiers destroyed the White House and many other important structures intrinsic to our way of life. In essence, it was a political statement which defiled our very government. Yet, we aren't declaring war on the British or burning King James bibles or what have you. There are numerous olde English pubs up for business, spreading the ideology of the British way of thinking, and not even their sense of humor is reviled.

Instead, America and all the sphere of the British Kingdom have the staunchest of supports for one another. Through war and crisis, we have been together despite the terrorism that our countries have inflicted upon one another.

Then, of course, there is the Japanese Empire. Almost a hundred-and-fifty years later, Japan bombs many American ships – some of them seeing service since world war one and the Spanish-American war of 1898.

We as Americans hated the Japanese for a long time. Perhaps it wasn't until a decade after world war 2 that we finally reconciled the bigotry towards their country and descendants who were born in America from their Japan-born parents and grandparents.

But now we have peace. Better, we have posterity through cooperation with our former enemies. We never understood each other's ideals or needs for pride and livelihood, but now it feels as though we are three different anthills at peace and unity instead of bickering and eating each other's dead to feed our own babies.

The two other great enemies of America have each reconciled after the destruction of some of our symbols of pride. Why is it that Americans themselves can never look to the past and realize what they have become? Why can they never understand where they are taking us?

Before someone calls someone else un-American or unpatriotic, they really need to understand what the word means. Is it just an excuse someone can use so that they don't have to listen to what someone else has to say, or is there an actual code of conduct for being patriotic which coincides with hatred and the genocide of another people?

This is what is frightening. Thanks to the diversion of lies, we are being rerouted to a cause and an ideology that is, itself, un-American. Do we want to live in a world where we shun possible allies in a little-known country just because we have been at war with their people and have experienced the ruination of a beloved image of our power?

Do we find ourselves stuck in a mode of thinking where the only good Muslim is one that is dead or converts to Christianity?

If Americans consider someone unpatriotic or un-American for not wanting to oppress Muslims and make their lives hard in every way, then is that truly the kind of "America" that a compassionate person wants to be a part of?