You know what really confuses me about the hyper-conservative people in political discussions? I get really confused when they say that something is “un-American.” Then, when I ask them what “American” is, they have a hard time going beyond catchwords and catchphrases like “democracy” and “rule of law.” Of course, they are usually also usings these words and phrases as antonyms for “socialism” and “social justice.”
It confuses me because there is nothing more socialist than the social network programs that are in place and that I know for a fact some of these people are using. They don’t complain about Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. They are angry about Obamacare, but they act surprised when told that a lot of Obamacare is a simple expansion of the Medicaid system. Like many on the far fringes of an ideology, they just seem to blurt out stuff without giving it much thought.
Another example are the kids who complain about the all-female cast of a movie. “They’re forcing feminism down our throats,” they say. Then I watch the movie and don’t see much feminism in it. In Ghostbusters, there were a lot of jokes about the men trying to stop the all-female protagonists from saving the world and how idiotic those attempts were. There were also a lot of jokes about their secretary, also a man, being a bumbling idiot who looked very good. (Which is a play on the “you’re lucky you’re pretty” joke told about women all the time.) But there really wasn’t an overwhelming message of “yay, women!” It was more like, “Yeah, women can be scientists and help save the world.” Which we already know.
No, seriously. We know.
My confusion comes from reading documents like the Declaration of Independence and its mention of equality and such. Sure, the Founding Fathers probably meant “white, acceptable men who own land or are not criminals” when they wrote that “all men are created equal.” But the courts and society now generally agree that “all men” means “all persons” and that, in the Constitution, there is a clear distinction between “citizens” and “persons,” and that many of the rights in the Bill of Rights are meant for persons in general and not just citizens. It’s right there in the text, and the courts all agree.
Still, there are people who are convinced that rights like Due Process or protection from unlawful searches and seizures are meant only for citizens. So they’re perfectly happy when non-citizens are picked up by the authorities and held incommunicado over terrorism fears. Or, when people with last names that don’t sound Anglo-Saxon do something, these “conservatives” are quick to demand that all people without Anglo-Saxon names be ejected from the country.
(I almost wrote “European” names, but then realized that my own last name is European as it is from Spain [a town in Spain, actually] and Spain is a part of Europe.)
Now, if “truth” and “justice” are these big American ideals, why is the truth that there’s nothing special about people based on their skin color scare so many Americans? Why is the justice being asked for by kneeling NFL players such an anathema to them as well? Of course, the answer to those questions is that truth has become this objective thing. Justice is only for those in power or with the right number of dollars in their bank accounts.
Science, the biggest source of truth, is under constant attack, it seems. Judges with preconceived notions about the people whose lives they’ll impact are being nominated to hold very important positions within our justice system. And people who think that Google is the equivalent of being educated at an accredited institution… Don’t get me started on them.
If anything, I’d say that the people who knowingly lie and say that there is a “war on Christmas” or a “White Genocide” are the ones who are being un-American. The people who clamor for women to go back to the kitchen and away from professional lives are the ones being un-American. And the bigots who spread lies like “all Mexicans are rapists” or “Black men are all violent (thugs)” are also un-American.
Then again, lately, there doesn’t seem to be anything more American than to be a liar and an oppressor.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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