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Being a "Real" American
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My progressive views are well-known and moderately well tolerated by my coworkers. I think it's more than just humoring me when we talk, because every so often I'm able to sneak up on a topic and address the underlying assumptions behind the conservative jargon that gets thrown at me.

Today was such a day. These office mates of mine (plus one frequent visitor) tossed me some raw meat: "Sarah, if you were a real American, if you loved your country...you wouldn't want to let people speak freely in criticism of it...you would join us in affirming America as a Christian country...you'd see that government is too much in our business...you'd want to send all those immigrants back where they came from."

Raw meat, indeed. Instead of trying to lob all those balls back over the net, I went for the deeply-held assumptions or misunderstandings about who is an American and what we stand for.

For, unlike all of my conversational opponents today, I have read (and mostly memorized) The Declaration of Independence written (mostly) by Thomas Jefferson (a Unitarian, btw). I have read the Constitution of the United States. I have read the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, aka the Bill of Rights, one of the most revolutionary set of affirmations in political history.

Establishment of freedom of speech, religion, right of assembly, privacy, and all the rest of it--it was the Founding Fathers who hammered out these documents. Talk about the audacity of hope. And we have the responsibility to maintain and carry them out, for ourselves and for our future.

Governments are instituted among men to establish those inalienable rights--liberal progressives fought for child labor laws, freed the slaves, built schools and colleges, gave the vote to women, enacted civil rights laws, rebuilt Europe after a war we helped win--all the while being fought tooth and nail by our conservative opponents, who, when the great deeds were accomplished, astonished us by saying they were behind them all the time. Yea, right.

And our worst side: Native American genocide, justification of slavery, Jim Crow, Japanese internment? Conservative projects driven by narrow-minded xenophobia and short-term greed. We look back at them now and cringe.

Take a look at what it means to be an American, and you'll find progressives front and center in humanitarian and political projects since the Declaration was written (by a progressive Unitarian). I'm proud to be a liberal.

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