Tuesday, April 5, 2011

country club americanism

Country club americanism, what does that mean and why do I say I see it today? The view that America is some special "club" that only the right people can join, and where special privileges are conferred is not a new thing. Throughout our history we have struggled with acceptance of the "others" whether that be blacks, Irish/Italian/other suspect Europeans, Asians, Hispanics,or so-called "savages" i.e.native Americans. We have had troubles with accepting other faiths - the current debates over Islam reflect our earlier discord over Jews and Catholics. Remember, it was only as recent as 1960 (within my lifetime) when we finally accepted that a Catholic (JFK) could be trusted to be President...and even then some feared he would be too influenced by the Pope.

Yet it is disturbing to see and hear signs that some would welcome a return to more "exclusive" times. Sometimes it is subtle..reaction to the protests in Wisconsin as being "allowed, I guess" in a free society. Sometimes condescending ...the remarks of a sitting US Senator that "free speech is a fine idea, but we are at war" (Lindsey Graham,R-SC). And some are revisionist/unconstitutional threats - "Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy....the purpose of the First Amendment ...was to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects" (Bryan Fischer, American Family Association).

It is bad enough to see the attack upon citizenship by way of the demand from some that it is not enough to be born in America...they demand that your parents prove they are citizens in order for you to be considered one (pedigree,anyone?)-contrary to the 14th Amendment. And bad also that folks would consider that freedoms in this country are only for citizens (see my earlier post on the use of the words "citizen" and "person" in the Constitution). But now to have rights reduced to "privileges" and "courtesies" for even citizens is outrageous and snobbery of the highest sort...and is why I call it "country-club americanism".

Don't get me wrong. We do have responsibilities as citizens. We have been given the great gift and privilege of being Americans and to enjoy the freedoms we have. But as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently points out, in the Declaration of Independence, our nation was founded upon the belief that we are "endowed by (our) creator with certain unalienable rights...life. liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". We exercise responsible citizenship first and foremost by defending those freedoms for all....by speaking out forcefully in their defense against anyone who would seek to restrict them from anyone.

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