With politics more divisive than ever, it’s nothing special when another political blog pops up featuring the hallmark, “I want my country back!” rant. It’s just another red-state, right-wing, rifle-toting redneck who somehow managed to figure his way ‘round the internet, right? Or, it’s one of these regular, disenfranchised, middle-aged white guys just looking out for their families, who turn into raging xenophobes when their wallet is targeted. Except, if you read a little further, you’ll see I don’t quite fit these profiles, and that’s important. Because those who seek to control you want you to believe there is no common ground among the American people; they want our country polarized and divided, because it serves their purposes.
I was born in 1975 and grew up in a working-class family in the San Francisco Bay Area. My dad was a Portuguese immigrant and my mom was born in Mississippi to Scotch-Irish parents. Upon their families converging in California, they met and married. My dad was a Teamster and drove a forklift. My mom became a teacher and also worked at a semiconductor fab in Silicon Valley. Our household was white, blue-collar and Democrat. Ours was that mythical, normal, suburban life. You know, Cub Scouts, soccer, skateboards and Nintendo. We shared that lifestyle with families from many different backgrounds: Black, Filipino, Korean, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. And on Independence Day, we would all have block parties, barbeques, water balloon fights and shoot off fireworks together. We were the melting pot.
As a teen, I was repulsed by politics and politicians. I was spiritually minded, introspective and non-competitive; I leaned about as far left as possible in my manner of thinking. Eventually, I reasoned I should be a good citizen and participate in the election process, so I cast my first vote for Bill Clinton, who defeated Bob Dole (and Ross Perot) in 1996. In the 2000 election, not impressed with either Bush Jr. or Al Gore, I voted for Ralph Nader on the Green Party ticket. The events of September 11, 2001 changed my trajectory. I remember wondering to myself that day why our jets weren’t in the air within hours. Why the delay? I started to open my eyes, but not in the way you might be inclined to think. I didn’t develop a fear of Osama Bin Laden or Muslims. Living in the Bay Area gifted me with great cultural diversity. I had friends and classmates who were Muslim. I studied world religions in college and as a personal interest. I read poetry by Rumi. When the Bush Administration decided to invade Iraq in 2003, despite no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, I started having serious doubts about the true motives of our government. I remember the distinct feeling that something was wrong while watching the media coverage of the “shock and awe” bombardment of Baghdad. In 2004, I voted for John Kerry and in 2008, I voted for Barack Obama, disillusioned with the declining state of the nation under Bush, but hopeful. In 2012, I decided not to give Obama my vote for a second term and instead voted for Gary Johnson, candidate for the Libertarian Party.
The truth is, I’m not a Libertarian. I’m not a Liberal. I’m not a Conservative. I’m not a Progressive. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m not the Tea Party. I’m not a Socialist, a Communist or a Capitalist. I’m not an environmentalist. I’m not Occupy. I’m not Anonymous. I’m not an anarchist. I’m not a conspiracy-theorist. I’m not LGBT. I’m not a Portuguese-Scotch-Irish-American. In other words, I don’t have an agenda. I am One American. And I don’t own a gun… yet.
Without disparaging these groups, I have to ask, why are we, as a nation of individuals, so inclined to identify ourselves so narrowly? Liberals are not liberal and Conservatives are not conservative. I started this blog, in part, to demonstrate that despite our differences and contrary to what the media conditions you to believe, we all have a lot more in common. And, we all have a lot at stake. I am proud to be an American. I love American culture. I love American values. I don’t believe in “tolerance” I believe in celebrating and embracing diversity. I love all people. I believe in family. I believe in humanity. I believe in love and compassion. I believe in freedom.
Fully acknowledging the many blemishes on the history of the United States of America and the imperfections of the men who founded our country and wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the ideals that we, as Americans, value and aspire to are noble and unmatched in the history of Western civilization. The values of liberty, truth and justice are worth fighting for. The errors of the past and present should be held up to this light and made right. Even if one argues that the Constitution was not originally meant to protect Natives, or Blacks or women or immigrants, it shall, by will of the people. The problem is, the idea of “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is rapidly being washed away. Our ability to function as a free nation will end if we do not identify the true enemies of freedom and stop them. In America, the idea of representative government has been usurped by subservience to special interest groups, the military-industrial complex, multi-national corporations and banks. In this type of society you are not a citizen, you are a subject.
The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees my freedom of speech. Despite this, for what I have just written in these few paragraphs, I can now be targeted by our government as a potential terrorist. That should be disturbing to anyone reading this blog. In fact, to be considered a terrorist, you no longer need to express disdain for the government, you merely need to proclaim support for the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. If you’re a veteran returning from war or you proudly display the American flag, you’re dangerous. I have always been an independent thinker. As such, I have witnessed my own philosophy and world view morph several times. Now it’s beginning to crystallize. My core values and beliefs, those which have been constant throughout, have triggered an alarm inside me. I am distraught. Even I, not being a member of any Tea Party group, not owning a gun, not being particularly religious, can see the injustice of the IRS targeting conservative groups. Perhaps you think this is ok, since you don’t agree with Tea Party politics. But the fact of the matter is, wrong is wrong. It is not politically relative. They’re coming for everyone, eventually. They’re coming for you too.
Those crying “I want my country back” can’t be so narrowly categorized anymore. We’re not all “bitter clingers” or “joe sixpacks”. We are students, engineers, laborers, farmers, veterans, journalists, police officers, taxi drivers, scientists, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, truckers, doctors, teachers, designers, athletes, mechanics, small business owners- people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds.
Ironically, in 2004 I stood on a street corner in Northern California with my wife and our newborn daughter holding a sign reading “Iraq Lies Cost Lives”. Even in “liberal” California I was cursed at and threatened. It distresses me to see people who so vehemently opposed the Iraq War and then President George W. Bush, now lining up in support of President Obama, when he has only extended and deepened Bush’s abuses of executive power. We are a label-handicapped society. Is this irrational support of Obama because he’s a Democrat? Is it because he’s a Liberal? Is it because he’s Black? Now, as I witness liberty groups, defenders of the Constitution, gun owners and people opposing President Obama’s policies being labeled as racists and potential terrorists, I have to wonder, who do they think we are? If you and I are the enemy, who are they?