I meant to get this one posted sometime last week, but, well, it didn’t happen. Better late than never! About a week ago, after reading some Wodehouse, I flipped through the latest Seattle Weekly, and read this book review of Divided by God by Noah Feldman. The beginning of the review sold me on the book, which I intend to read sometime soon, but the end of the review, where the critic responds to the book, was almost appalling. I’ll quote it in full:
Feldman’s plan would be perfect—except for the fact that the Bush Evangetaliban is all about coercion and money. Its goal, as Esther Kaplan documents in With God on Their Side, “is not to engage your opponents in the public square, but to kneecap them, or send them into exile.” The imams of the right won’t stop with symbolic victories. They want gays in re-education concentration camps, teenagers in madrasas preaching Values Evangelism and Intelligent Design, All Things Considered (it could be renamed One Thing Considered) replaced by religious hate radio. They aren’t kidding, and they are winning. Feldman’s mistake is to think that Values Evangelicals value anything but brute power.
I have a different compromise to propose. Why try to be united? Americans, red and blue, have no common national vision and never will again. Feldman’s own insightful quickie history proves our belief groups have fissioned steadily for centuries. Instead, on “values” issues, permit each municipality to declare itself red or blue, on the model of dry and booze-permitting towns. If all Florida rots into an ignorant, befouled backwater run by corrupt judges and Bush oil theocrats and overrun with pregnant teenagers who remain coke-addicted drunks until discovering Jesus at 40, like George, let them have their place for that. Red America, send us your gays, your morning-after-pill doctors, your science teachers yearning to breathe free! This country’s big enough for both of us—as long as we stay divided. Meanwhile, one suspects only the blue half of America will read Feldman’s book. The red half will probably burn it.
The reviewer’s frenzied disgust for the other half of the population is palpable. His take on the American right is so far out there I think it’s a safe bet he has never really met a member of the religious right and takes his cues from moonbat left. A couple of days later I got an email from the guys who run Spirit of America containing an email forward that offered a highly informative juxtaposition with teh above passage about the identity of America. The forward claims to be written by an Australian dentist and ends like this:
An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek.
An American may also be Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani, or Afghan.
An American may also be a Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole or one of the many other tribes known as native Americans.
An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim.
In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses.
An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.
An American lives in the most prosperous land in the history of the world.
The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God given right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.
An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need.
When the Soviet army overran Afghanistan 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country!
As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan.
Americans welcome the best, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best athletes. But they also welcome the least!
The national symbol of America, The Statue of Liberty, welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America.
Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of September 11, 2001, earning a better life for their families. I’ve been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 other countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.
So you can try to kill an American if you must.
So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and every bloodthirsty tyrant in the history of the world.
But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.
I know which view I like better.