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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Red, White and Bullshit

There comes a time in the life of a country when it has to assess its deviation from its founding principles. (see previous post)

There is no more United States of America. Though star spangled banners still wave over land within our borders and bloodied sands a half-a-world away, we are a country united only by governance, states only by convenience, and America only by arrogance.

Once a nation of people pursuing dreams, we have tossed and turned ourselves into a dark nightmare of glorified symbols - flag, family and office - that throw ghostly shadows of torture, rape, murder and mayhem. An oath to protect and defend our Constitution has degraded into just another empty campaign promise. Bound by chains of fear disguised as security, our constricted constitutional artery robs us of liberty and stunts the growth of our country. Compromised in this way, out of our control, our symbols are in need of re-statement of purpose. To grow a stronger, more tolerant, forward-looking country, we must take back not just our government, but the symbols that represent her as well.

The Flag and the Lady

Does the Statue of Liberty represent our past, our present or our future? For those who came in the Golden Age of US immigration, she was a symbol of freedom and opportunity. By their labor and love for this country, we grew, and grew strong. And while we cannot speak of toiling for the benefit of our nation without acknowledging those who came here as slaves, the sweat of immigrants, both slaves and free people, charts the course of the history of our country. Whether it's the Chinese who built the railroads or the Irish or the Germans or the Jews or the Koreans, they eagerly came to our shores for a better life. All of those groups continue to contribute to our economic and cultural growth.

New growth comes from commitment to a better life, and no one demonstrates that more than the immigrant. That's why it's not enough to say, as GWB has so often lately, "We are a nation of immigrants." He may as well say "We are a nation of racists," or ,"We are a nation of over-eaters." While a stroke of the cultural brush touches all those groups, that's not who we are, and it is too easy for many to disown. If you are an American, there is one fact you must take ownership of with pride: we are not only a nation of immigrants, we are a nation built by immigrants.

Latin Americans, who incidentally have been Americans longer than just about anyone else, likewise will continue to contribute their ethic for hard work and a better life. To criminalize them or penalize them for wanting to have more is the same as punishing our country and will suffocate our growth. Without immigrants who truly care about their future, we will soon become a country without a future.

A country is defined by two important things: the constitution of its government and its people. When one or both become downgraded to mere symbols that we love/hate/encourage/abhor, then we stand for nothing, and a proud history of a country that squandered its potential becomes just another tragic fiction.

-PBG
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