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March 27, 2015

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Being an American is about more than slogans

Whatever happened to the idea published by Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her book, “Friends of Voltaire” (circa 1906), in which it states, “I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it”?

Today, it seems you will be personally attacked if what you say disagrees with what someone else believes. As Americans, we embrace the idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But liberty does not mean license. The Bill of Rights endows us not only with rights and freedoms, but corresponding obligations and duties.

Freedom of speech does not just mean expressing our opinions, but allowing others to express theirs, listening, respecting their beliefs and engaging in civil discourse, even if we disagree. It does not entitle us to slander and condemn those who hold a different opinion. Our country seems to have lost that idea, and that is why we are so polarized. Everyone is yelling, no one is listening or keeping an open mind, and so it makes compromise impossible. We are in political gridlock. Nothing is getting done.

Patriotism is being used for political purposes, not as an inspirational way to unite us. We have gone from burning the flag and chanting, “Hell no ... we won’t go,” to waving the flag and proclaiming the motto “Support our troops.” Those who wrap themselves in the flag are not necessarily patriots.

Another constitutional right and duty is that of voting. Many Americans have died to secure that right, so why do so few exercise this freedom?

Of more concern, many people are either uninformed or misinformed on the issues and candidates, so they do not vote wisely. Later, both non-voters and uninformed voters complain that the country is not being managed the way they wish.

A democracy will not last unless it has an educated populace, and self-government without self-discipline will not work. It requires reading something besides novels and listening to more than just one radio or TV news station.

Communicate with your elected officials and let them know your opinions. Frequently, I hear, “We’ve got to take our country back.” Maybe we do. But you, ladies and gentlemen, are our country. It is all of us, including the people who disagree with you. All of us need to look at ourselves and determine how we can take ourselves back to being good citizens and true Americans. Then, the country will be back. The bottom line is that being an American means more than just proclaiming so. It means being a good citizen and doing what is good for your country, not just for your own selfish agenda.

Today, I am going to fly the flag, celebrate my right to freely assemble with friends and discuss any topic we want, from politics to how long the burgers should stay on the grill. We may even disagree, but we will understand one another, be civil and remain friends. I am also going to get out my album from Vietnam and remember the comrades whom I lost there, who secured for me the life I have lived and enjoyed as a true American.

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  1. Very well said!

  2. Right or wrong, my country. If right support her. If wrong, make her right!

    God bless the USA.


  3. Gene, Who among us could argue with what you wrote and expressed about our country. Some how It seems we have lost our way. But I feel with people such as yourself and millions of other Americans we will turn our country around and make it whole once again.Thanks to all of our dedicated military personnal,and all the true patroits of our great country.

  4. Where we come apart is when we become judgemental about each other's motivations. When we accuse those holding opposing views of wanting to destroy the country or being traitorous, we're making judgements about their motives that have no basis.
    We all have a right to our opinions (not our own facts) and, while I'll often point out hypocrisy when I see it, I don't question opposing views as being sincerely held. That said, I wonder if we really don't need two countries (or perhaps more) to satisfy our widely divergent views of what our country should look like and what its future course should be.

  5. Brad I believe I recall the day that you and "Joe" began the disagreement because I was also involved in those discussions. As I remember the topic was the war on drugs. As I remember I thought you were making an invalid comparison. I also agreed with "Joe" on his views and you attacked us both. The discussions when on into the night with all of us "exchanging" our views. I was very upset with these exchanges and allowed myself to get more worked up than I should have. I was upset because you and I were on the opposite ends of the discussion where we always on the same side before.

    It was then I decided it was not worth getting my blood pressure up for things I cannot change. Since that time I comment very infrequently because of that night.

    I have no problem when I am attacked by someone that differs with me ideogically but when I have such attacks from someone I consider on the same team, I must question myself.

    Perhaps I have not properly remembered the way the discussion went. Perhaps "Joe" will read this and shed some light.

  6. Great letter, thank you.

  7. Hey Guys, Joe, BChap, and John, why not call a truce and start where you left off before your disagreement.It would be wise to not mention that day and move forward.Life is short, and we need good commenters like yourselves. I probably should mind my own business, but it's worth a shot.

  8. Mr. McGrath, excellent article!!!

    "Another constitutional right and duty is that of voting. Many Americans have died to secure that right, so why do so few exercise this freedom?..."

    This is a particular concern of mine, as well as what you continued to write about being informed.

    This should be part of an ongoing citizenship class throughout a students education. It could also include learning how to read things and determine what is misleading.

    Some feel there is a lack of choice, and that the two parties are not very different in the backroom deals and meetings.

    I think it could be a benefit to do all possible to open up our political system to more than two parties. Additionally, other parties must progress so they are able to offer viable candidates for Federal and State participation. Just running someone for President won't due. They must be people running for Congress too.

    Jim Weber, "...I wonder if we really don't need two countries (or perhaps more) to satisfy our widely divergent views of what our country should look like and what its future course should be."

    I agree. It may be the only way considering how things are going now, but a monumental task.