Pardon Me, Are You a True American?
Suppose you were walking down the street one sunny afternoon and were suddenly confronted by a radio DJ who tells you that he is doing a survey on a very important political issue and asks you if you would like to participate. You cautiously agree. The delighted DJ then tells you that the survey consists of only four questions which can be answered in any order, but he wants you to be as honest in your answers as possible. Then, after a short pause to make sure the little red blinking light that says "record" is, well, blinking, he asks you the following questions:
It is one such case that we will be addressing here, involving a Christian revisionist tract that is currently making the rounds in Christian news groups and email forwarding databases. I have received it twice already from different sources. It was written anonymously (which should be cause for concern in and of itself) and it seeks as its goal to attack the very foundations of our Constitution by way of a Christian-based revision of history, to include changing the very convictions of our founding fathers, in order to convince the targeted audience (i.e., already believing Christians) that the United States is a "Christian nation," founded by Christians, for Christians!
As we shall see, the author fails to provide any references whatsoever to back-up the polemical assertions he makes, but instead attempts to draw attention away from this problem by appealing to the post-September 11th emotional stigmas in the minds of his targeted audience.
It will be my position in my rebuttal to demonstrate the egregious errors the author makes in his relaying of the "facts" about our history as a nation and what it means to be an "American."
My commentary will appear along with the article in question, with the
article text appearing in blue and my comments
First, let me present the entire text of the article in question:
IMMIGRANTS, NOT AMERICANS, MUST ADAPT. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept.11, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Americans. However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the "politically correct" crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to America. Our population is almost entirely comprised of descendants of immigrants. However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. This idea of America being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Americans, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle. This culture has been developed over centuries of struggles trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom. We speak ENGLISH, not Spanish, Arabic,
Notice how the author makes it a point to apply the deeply emotive words "terrorist attacks" (translation: "THEM, the Evil") and "patriotism" (translation: "US, the Good"), and then ties-in The Good with "the majority of Americans." And, of course, you know who The Bad are, don't you? Yes, it's those among the "politically correct crowd" who are, allegedly, the minority, whose rights it seems are of little or no consequence. Worse, the author makes a dangerous allusion to what he will later confess outright; that by "the majority" he really means Christian as in "A Christian nation," and how one must be among that "majority" or else you are "un-patriotic" and consequently "un-American." More on this later.
The sad fact is that he has conveniently ignored one of the most important principles in the U.S. Constitution, a principle that our founding fathers labored over in order to secure it in no uncertain terms: that while the majority may rule the minority has right! And in case there are some that don't understand what is meant by "minority right," it means specifically that the majority, whatever it may be at any given time, cannot (CANNOT) impose it's will on the Constitutional rights of the minority, whatever may be in the minority at any given time. Perhaps those that would scoff at this simple yet brilliant ideology would do well to heed Thomas Jefferson's warning:
It behoves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own. -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803Every citizen of the United States, whether through birth or through naturalization, has the exact same rights under the U.S. Constitution! We are all Americans in every sense of the term! To deny that is to deny the unprecedented nature of our secular Constitution and reduce it to just one more in an endless line of totalitarian and theocratic regimes.
Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! Amazingly, the author seems to be unaware of, or unmoved by, the fact that prior to the influx of European immigrants onto this section of North America we now call the United States, it was already inhabited by aboriginal natives, millions of them, and they had existed here in some form for more than 10,000 years! They had their own gods, their own customs, their own languages, and their own heritage. But the tragic consequences of Colonialism and Manifest Destiny would soon make itself felt through the complete and utter devastation of these native populations!
Notice how the author's real feelings begin to reveal themselves! His use of emotive words begins to increase, and he does so because he is building-up to something that he has a lot of emotional investment in. Look again at these phrases:
"This idea of ... multicultural[ism]"
And what of the tens-of-thousands of Africans that were brought here through the "God approved" slave trade? They did not want to come here, but were captured and brought here by force; and as such they did what they had to in order to survive, what anyone would do, they had children and laid roots here that are nearly as deep as any among Caucasian ancestry today. Later, they would be recognized as "free men," and as "Americans," although the deep prejudices persisted (particularly in the case of women), as they do even today. So are all blacks and their descendants living among us today to be excluded as part of American cultural simply because there is no signature of a black man on the Constitution? And if they happen to find more identity with their own cultural heritage in Africa and seek to cultivate and carry-on that identity here in America, as tax-paying citizens, does that make them any less American than you or I?
Just looking at the author's points of contention up to this stage,
one would have to wonder just what he would classify as legitimate
Americans; a type of person, let's say, that he would feel comfortable
presenting as the poster-child for our "national identity"?
Indeed, to this point he has not stated what America is, but rather
what it is not! In other words he is defining us through exclusion
and, as we shall see, his terms for what is not excluded is rapidly
narrowing toward a very ancient and very destructive ideology. . .
Sought freedom? Freedom for whom and from what? The term freedom is very subjective and it's meaning changes dramatically based on the perspective of those applying it. The Aztecs and Incas sought freedom from the conquistadors who ruthlessly murdered their men, pillaged their wealth, stole their land, raped their women, and insulted their Gods, all of which was supposedly "God-approved" on the part of the conquistadors through Papal Bull (i.e., the Pope ordered it). The African slaves sought freedom from the white man who shackled him and sought to destroy his heritage, his religion, his identity, indeed his freedom itself--for profit. The native Americans sought freedom to inhabit their own lands and live their lives unmolested by the pillaging, disease, and cultural devastation brought-on by these pale-faced barbarians. The Hawaiians sought freedom (and continue to seek freedom even today!) from the American government that had set it's gaze upon it's shores, as well as the Christian missionaries that soon followed; the former, because it saw Hawaii as a critical military outpost in the South Pacific, and the latter because it sought to bring "God's love and grace" to a "primitive," "savage," "immoral," and "religiously misguided" culture. The list goes on.
In the 1980's when the Soviets were still being peddled by our government propaganda spinners, in typical Orwellian fashion, as the "ultimate evil" (the "Red Menace") and "unstable threat" to American freedom, the American government (i.e., "the good") poured literally billions of dollars into arming and training these same factions of Muslim extremists that we are fighting today in Afghanistan! Why? So that they could fight for us against our archenemy, the "evil" Soviets! We knew, even then, about the destructive terrorist activities these militant factions were involved with elsewhere in the world, but because we saw an opportunity to use them for our purposes we were willing to look the other way and support them with American dollars, American weapons, and direct training by American military specialists.
But what is most interesting about this debacle is that our government and mainstream media never once referred to these factions as "terrorists" as we do today (and they are terrorists, make no mistake); rather, we called them "freedom fighters"! These are the same factions, mind you, that flew passenger jets into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11th; the same factions that are now using the very weapons and training we gave them, against us! Interestingly enough, they still refer to themselves as "freedom fighters" (a term we claim for ourselves) while we now refer to them as "terrorists," even though their ideology and actions have not changed at all, only their targets.
So let me ask you again: when this gentleman talks of "the
victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom",
to whom and from what perspective does he presume to speak? I would
encourage you to think about this carefully before jumping to judgment
about what I have said.
Hmmm. Is he correct? Let's break this down. Prior to the colonization of the eastern shores of North America by Caucasian, English-speaking settlers (these were not "Americans," incidentally, they were a British colony, not unlike Hawaii was a colony to the U.S. prior to it's becoming a state in 1959.), there existed many different languages spoken by hundreds of aboriginal tribes that inhabited these lands, and "English" was not one of them! The African men, women and children brought to these lands as slaves also did not speak English! Even the so-called "discoverer of America," Christopher Columbus (a dubious accolade to be sure), and the conquistadors that followed him were not English-speaking, but SPANISH, or Portuguese!
And what of that little U.S. land acquisition deal Thomas Jefferson negotiated in 1803 called the Louisiana Purchase? That vast expanse of land, extending from the Mississippi river to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to British North America (essentially the Canadian border today), was purchased from FRANCE! Indeed, there is today a rich history of French-Spanish-African ancestry in Louisiana in general and the port city of New Orleans in particular. We even have a name for it--Creole.
And another thing these "English only" pundits should consider is that
virtually all of the Founding Brothers of the United States itself,
the "revolutionaries," were highly educated and most were fluent in three
or more languages! Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin had even been ambassadors
to France! In his autobiography, Ben Franklin had this to say about
his pursuit of language acquisition:
I had begun in 1733 to study languages. I soon made myself so much a Master of the French as to be able to read the Books with Ease. I then undertook Italian . . . I afterwards with a little Painstaking acquir'd as much of the Spanish as to read their Books also.
(They would have) acquire'd another Tongue or two that being in modern Use might be serviceable to them in common life. (my emphasis)
At last, the cat is out of the bag! The theological message he intends to sell you is that America is a "Christian nation," and that if one presumes to be a True American (TM) then one must believe in God, and by "God" he does not mean Allah, or Vishnu, or Mithra, or Horus, or Quetzalcoatl, or any number of indigenous North American tribal gods, he means the "Christian" God!
The fact is, however, his perception of history is severely distorted, and it's quite possible that he knew this in advance since he makes it a point to state that the "Christian" views he is espousing are "clearly documented," as if to say to the already believing Christian audience he hopes to appeal to:
"If you really want to check my facts, my brothers and sisters in Christ, you may, but as I am a 'God-fearing' Christian who would never lie to you, you should just trust me at my word that I am telling you the truth when I say that the information I am relaying would be the same information you would find were you to actually study the documentation for yourselves. But since I have already studied these issues, and found them to be self-evident truths, there is no need for you to be troubled with repeating the process; as such, I humbly request that you do not delay in sending this message on to other good people such as yourselves. In His name, --signed, Anonymous"
But I say this: Don't take him at his word! Do check it out for yourselves! Moreover, I also suggest that you do not take anything I say at my word either, but check it out! I will stand by the evidence that I present, and I will put my name to it! Indeed, I find it shameful that the rhetoric being peddled here comes with the comfort of anonymity for it's author, because I would take great delight in debating this person on his disingenuous soap box rhetoric!
So, let's just test a few of his "clearly documented" facts, shall we?
Is "In God We Trust" the national motto our nation's founders decided upon?
Well, if our Nation had been established during the anti-communist McCarthyism hysteria of the 1950's, then our friend might have a case here, since it was in 1956 that this "motto" came into being. The Cold War was building and political propaganda spinners sought to draw a clear line of delineation between the U.S. ("The Good") and the Soviets ("The Evil"), and they did so by making communism and atheism virtually synonymous terms (which is silly), with each to be despised and aggressively opposed as a "threat" to "American values" and the "American way of life"--a stigma that remains alive and well even today.
But "In God We Trust" is not our original motto! The original national motto, which (thankfully) still appears on The Great Seal of the United States today, is E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one), as agreed upon by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams after the First Continental Congress (July 4th, 1776) assigned them the task of producing an appropriate seal to represent our country.
The actual design of our Great Seal was one of great concern to our founders and the process ultimately encompassed six years and three separate committees between 1776-1782 (each with different committee members) before it was complete. As in any decision-making process there are going to be good ideas and bad ideas produced in brainstorming sessions and such was the case here. Ultimately some ideas from each committee were incorporated into the final design, while others were rejected for one reason or another. The motto E Pluribus Unum was one of the keepers! Other ideas, such as depictions of Moses defying the Egyptian army at the Red Sea, the Judgment of Hercules, a white-clad "virtus" (virtuous) maiden, and other complex designs, did not make the cut for obvious reasons. No where on the final version, in fact, do the words "God" or "Jesus" or "Christian Nation" or "One Nation Under God" appear, and it was not by mistake that such things were excluded! They were excluded for the same reasons such terms were excluded from the Constitution; because this is not a nation governed by gods or kings or masters, but by the People--"We, the People"!
The changing of our national motto from E Pluribus Unum to In God We Trust was a knee-jerk reaction by Congress; as was the dubious addition of "under God" to our Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Prior to that the Pledge read as follows:
I Pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
But in 1952 the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization,
began a vocal campaign to have the Pledge changed to read "one nation
under God"; and, riding the wave of anti-Soviet sentiments of the
day, they (and the American Legion) petitioned a sympathetic Congress to
have the wording changed. And just like that everything our founding
fathers had fought and labored to secure for 'We the People' was
trampled underfoot of a self-serving religious ideology.
Were the founders of our nation "Christian men"?
Many of them were Christians, and yet many of them were not! Indeed, some of the names that inhabit the "non-Christian" list are striking considering the key roles they played in our history; people such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison and Thomas Paine, among others. And some were not only not Christian, but were openly critical of Christianity, the Bible, and the clergy.
Jefferson was an avid student of religion, including Christianity, and
while he thought good of some parts of the Bible, he despised most of it,
and he made an interesting analogy of this by calling those good points
"diamonds in a dunghill." And while he was very careful about expressing
his own views about the Bible in public (wisely, it seems), he was more
forthcoming in his private correspondences with family and colleagues.
In one letter to his nephew, Peter Carr, he makes a statement that, were
it made today (or even in his time), would make him unelectable as President
of the United States:
The Christian god can easily be pictured as virtually the same god as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites. -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to his nephew, Peter Carr
I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies. The Christian God is a being of terrific character -- cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust. -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Woods (undated), referring to "our particular superstition" Christianity
Thomas Paine is another case all together. He is truly one of the most critical figures in American history because of his uncanny ability to invoke action through the written word. It was his best selling Common Sense pamphlets, in fact, that re-invigorated the people with a will to fight at a time when morale was at its lowest and defeat seemed a foregone conclusion. It was Paine who went to France and convinced Louis XIV to donate six million livres toward the war effort! It was Paine who gave us the name, "United States of America." It was Paine who said such famous quotes as "what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly" and "These are the times that try men's souls" and "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it."
But Paine was also a vocal enemy to Christianity and the Bible and any
organized religion that sacrifice reason for superstition and dogma, and
he made those views clear when he published The Age of Reason, which
was also a best seller but one which resulted in his becoming reviled as
a pariah and doer of the "devil's work." Here are just a few quotes:
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit. -- Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason
I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies. -- Benjamin Franklin
Is the United States a "Christian Nation"?
Well, if it is then someone forgot to tell that to the delegates that came together to debate and form our Constitution. They certainly had ample opportunity to do so, and yet nowhere in that document do we ever see the words God, Jesus, Christianity, Gospels, the Bible, or any other term associated with Judeo-Christian theology! Do you suppose it just slipped their minds? Nope.
At the Constitutional convention in fact, Luther Martin, a Maryland representative, opined that some kind of recognition of Christianity should be included in the Constitution on the grounds that "it would be at least decent to hold out some distinction between the professors of Christianity and downright infidelity or paganism." But this proposal was rejected by the delegates (many of whom were Christians) and the Constitution was drafted as a secular document. Indeed, the only time religion ever mentioned in the Constitution at all is in exclusionary form: Article VI, Section 3, which states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." A short time later it would be mentioned a second time in the establishment clause of the First Amendment, but again it was exclusionary of religion and not an endorsement! Does that sound like the actions of a group of "Christian men" intent on making this a "Christian nation"?
It is a very disturbing problem, I think, that so many people are being
influenced by these right-wing Christian extremists (I'm sorry, but that
is what they are) whom, finding our history as it stands to be unpalatable
with how they think it should have happened, attempt to rewrite
that history, and even the views of our founding fathers themselves, in
order to contort them into something more in-line with their theocratic
motivations. But these people are doing a great disservice to those
minds (young or old) whom, thinking they are getting an honest and unbiased
picture of history (warts and all), are not; and if they are not inclined
to check-the-work of their would-be teachers then they may never learn
otherwise, and that is a shame.
To invoke "God" is to presume the supernatural, and that, by definition, carries religious implications. And that fact in and of itself makes our friend's assertion, that "it is appropriate to display it [In God We Trust] on the walls of our [public] schools" to be false! To the contrary, it is categorically inappropriate!
To demonstrate the point, consider what this man would say if we changed
the word "God" to "Jesus"; would he find offense in that? No, he
would not! Indeed, he would like nothing more than for the name of
his own professed god to be prominently placed on the walls of very classroom
in the country in order that the Hindu child and Muslim child and atheist
child (all heathens in his mind) would have to look upon it and acknowledge
it as some divine authority that is not open to challenge. But what
would this man's reaction be if the word "God" were replaced with "Allah"
or "Vishnu" or Isis? Imagine it, honestly: "In Allah We Trust"
or "May Vishnu Bless America." Would he not be up in arms
and demanding their removal at once?
On the other hand, there is nothing unique about our friend's views and I suspect that most of what he has said is just parroting of propaganda that has been fed to him from the pulpits, and not through any sincere efforts on his part to crack the history books, the historical archives, and the autobiographies in search of the truth!
The most alarming thing in all of this is that the distorted views our
friend seems to be living with are not unlike those that have been openly
expressed by President Bush and others in his administration, particularly
Attorney General John Ashcroft, who is completely out of control.
One wonders how far it will go. Perhaps we should take seriously
the warning issued by James Madison:
I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.
As a thought experiment, consider the following two quotes and see if
you can guess who the person was that said each of them:
Yours in Truth,
a) Pat Robertson
"Today Christians ... I pledge that I never will tie myself to parties who want to destroy Christianity. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit ... We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press - in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past years."
d) Adolf Hitler
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