No, I don't hate America. But I know I would be accused of hating my own country for what I am and what I think. And I hate that.
I've been losing sleep lately, ever since the Sarah Palin nomination was announced. My mind won't stop churning. I can't get it all to go out of my head. There's something terribly wrong and it's gnawing at me without relent.
I spent my short career involved, in one way or another, in American politics. Local, state, and federal. I worked for a state program created by legislative action to fund programs that fought youth delinquency. I worked in the United States Congress as an aide to one of its members (I was front office staff for a republican member from southern California). I worked in local government in northern California as a public transport executive tasked with putting together local, state, and federal (yes, earmark) funds for local transportation investments.
So I've been exposed to some politics. I've never run for, let alone held, public office. But I've been very close to some who have. I've seen some of the inner workings of the process, the dirt, and the glory.
As I said, there is something terribly wrong with what's been happening in American politics of late. And for a long time now. Recently, the "race for the White House" as it's now called, is scaring me. It's not that Sarah Palin was nominated. I congratulate her achievement. She rose from a career in local politics to become the governor of her state and the second woman nominated by her party for the office of Vice President of the United States. That's the America I learned to be proud of.
But there is something wrong. This successful woman, this representation of the progress we have made as a nation, is a staunch conservative. She is proud of her record of conservative politics. To me, this is a contradiction in terms.
The Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary (the one I have) defines conservatism as follows: the practice of conserving what is established; disposition to oppose change in established institutions and methods.
Let that sink in for a moment. "Disposition to oppose change in established institutions and methods (emphasis added)."
What troubles me is that, while American conservatives are apparently energized by the nomination of one of their own, Sarah Palin is the product of very liberal policies and politics. If conservatives actually had their way, women might never have even been accorded their right to vote, let alone have a career outside the home, including, but not limited to, holding high political office. The Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1920 (less than a hundred years ago), prohibited the denial of the right to vote based on sex. That was thirty years after the Fifteenth Amendment granted the same right to black men. Would Sarah Palin have been a conservative, opposed to change, then?
It seems very strange to me that any woman, especially one who has risen to high political office, would espouse a political philosophy that would once have denied her the right to even aspire to that office.
But there's something that troubles me even more. All candidates for high office in today's America must profess their faith in a god, specifically the Christian god, in order to be considered viable. I have heard all manner of arguments about why this is so. "America is a Christian nation." It is not. "The founding fathers established America based on the Ten Commandments." They did not. I could go on.
The belief in a god or gods is not a test for holding office in America. Article VI of the United States Constitution specifically prohibits a religious test for office: ...The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
That the people have imposed this test de facto, not officially, is not illegal. Nonetheless it is troubling.
Sarah Palin is not the first candidate for national office that points to faith in a god as the foundation of her values and guiding principle for her governing style. She is one among many of the latest. I would wager that few modern politicians could get elected without doing the same.
But the extent to which her professed faith (and that of others) controls how she would govern is in direct conflict with established American law. Conservatives, and Evangelical Christians in particular, are not shy about trying to change American laws to reflect their religious beliefs. The abortion issue is just one example of this. Opposition to gay rights is another.
Still another example is the renewed attempt to replace science instruction in schools with Christian creationist dogma. Americans already wrestled with this issue earlier in the twentieth century. Scopes v. Tennesse (1925), was the first high profile case in the matter. It was not until 1968 that the US Supreme Court found, in Epperson v. Arkansas, that prohibiting the teaching of evolution theory in public schools violated the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution. As recently as 1987, the US Supreme Court ruled, in Edwards v. Aguillard, that mandating the teaching of creationism alongside evolution was unconstitutional (although it left the door open for alternative "theories" on the origin of life).
Even more recently, in 2005, a US District judge found, in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, that creationism's latest incarnation, called Intelligent Design, is not science, and that it "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents," and that the school district's promotion of it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
The point of all of this brief history is that Sarah Palin professes to be a creationist, and she is at least not opposed to, and arguably in favor of, teaching creationism in the public schools. That is a position that goes far beyond conservative politics and is akin to reactionary doctrine.
I was born and raised in the United States. I have a strong feeling for what it means to be an American. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are concepts that resonate deep inside of me. The United States Constitution, its Bill of Rights, and all of the amendments (save one, Prohibition, which was subsequently repealed), enumerate and expand the rights of human beings to these and all aspects of civilized society. We are, by definition, a liberal society.
I'm afraid of social conservatism, religious zealotry, and reactionary thinking. I'm appalled that a woman in Sarah Palin's position would embrace these ideas. I'm terrified that such a woman might one day become President of the United States.
To be conservative, or reactionary, with regard to social issues is more than troubling, it's anti-American. It's not me, or liberals, who hate America. It's those who would turn back the clock on our progress as a nation and as human beings.
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