Days ago, when you expressed your concerns about our citizens, I began to wonder which “many” of us across America “hate” our country, Ms. Bachman. Your rhetoric suggests that to explore our failings and challenges is to hate America . . . that national self-examination is somehow unpatriotic. So I ask, by what criteria do you measure patriotism or the pro-American status of another? Which Americans do you suggest require investigation: the Americans who critique policies, actions, and institutions, or the Americans who subject the critics to censure?
We do our country a disservice by failing to acknowledge those domestic and international actions which are unworthy of the principles outlined in our national documents, just as individual are encouraged to reflect and hold themselves accountable for their failings. Critique is not only American, Ms. Bachmann, it is our national conscience . . . it is the high road of humanity.
When President Bush says, “Don’t keep pushing the Constitution in my face, it’s just a God-damned piece of paper,” then demonstrates his disdain for the Constitution by subverting its essence at every turn, he reveals his scorn for our most sacred national document. When Sarah Palin says contemptuously in her acceptance speech, “He wants us to read ‘em their rights,” and the Republicans lift to their feet with resounding cheers, they demonstrate a facet of derision grounded in ignorance; specifically for our rights of habeas corpus. They are saying, “We don’t want to know the details, just hang ‘em high!” Is this American, Ms. Bachmann? Is it American to curse or mock the Constitution?
Interestingly, Ms. Bachmann, the right to express our opinions comes from that Constitution. It’s how we tell the chaff from the grain. These statements I've mentioned are chaff, Ms. Bachmann, in a way, they represent a “hate speech” for our Constitution, but they allow the rest of us to recommit to the depth of our democracy and indeed, the breadth of our humanity. We learn of our vulnerabilities when we allow others to speak their minds, and when we encourage dialogue aimed at exploring the nuances of American perspectives.
Many people stop short when they hear controversial comments, convinced that there is no excuse, no context that would mitigate one’s statement. Yet, we are most American when we explore, and exercise our intellectual curiosity. It is a facet of “due process,” for context is relevant. Criticism of America is not un-American, it’s born of a pain about America’s failings, Ms. Bachmann, for however ill-structured, we seek to expose the schizophrenic nature of our country, a split in our national self-awareness that could be our undoing if not acknowledged.
Recent campaign tactics uncover the festering wound of racism steeping in pockets of our country. When citizens string the effigy of Obama to a tree branch or chant, “Kill him!” without renunciation, we act out the worst of our American shadow. When we seek to paint one man’s nobility with another’s ignobility we reveal our willingness to surrender truth for political gain, and if you perceive that the means justifies some divine higher end, Ms. Bachmann, you debase the very God you seek to elevate.
Is it really anti-American to despise our acts of torture and violence against others? Is it really anti-American to suggest that we all pitch in to pay for our infrastructure, and our well-being, our wars, and our debt? REALLY? Unpatriotic? Is it really patriotic to shut our wallets to our country when we willingly spill the blood of our children? Why is it Christian to tithe, yet unpatriotic to tax for the benefit of our country, Ms. Bachmann? Why does it seem better to borrow than to pay our own way? May we not consult our national conscience on such matters without your allegations?
America has entered a therapy of sorts. We’re facing the demons we’ve denied for too long: the demons of instant gratification and an economic anarchy that has fueled self-indulgence and a welfare system for the wealthy. We face the demons of racism, ignorance, and religious persecution. We face the demons that would subvert the best of America. The worst of these dysfunctions swirl around us with increasing ferocity. We face, we deny, we are angered, we bargain, we are depressed, and then we begin our recovery of acceptance. As any therapist will agree, we must nonetheless guard against casting out demons whole cloth, lest we cast out the best part of ourselves. Cast critics as demons, then cast away the critics, Ms. Bachmann, and you will have cast away our national self-critique, and any hope for our country.
I know you believe that God called your to public service, Ms. Bachmann, and perhaps he did, but I will suggest that perhaps it was not to represent the good people of Minnesota who elected you, but instead to represent and voice the misunderstandings of many in America who do not fully understand the heart and soul of American democracy. Though your words, we witness sentiments those who deliberately or ignorantly attempt to pervert “Americanism” as THEIR America, in which loyalty is prized over self-awareness. I encourage you to remain vocal, because your words expose areas of serious dysfunction which any "political correctness" might drive underground.
Indeed, just as it is American to make mistakes in policy decisions, it is equally American to misunderstand our heritage, and to allow necessary voices like yours who are essential to our remembering. I thank you, Ms. Bachmann, for your service to your country, for it is MOST American to reflect on our journey, and if we are the nation we purport to be, we will self-reflect, acknowledge and own our missteps and misunderstandings, and move forward with a vigorous, renewed understanding of our nation. However, we must remember to guard against the likes of you, my dear, allowing you to serve your purpose while remaining vigilant against your “success.”