Saturday, January 15, 2005

Not To Get Off On A Rant Here...

All right, I've had it.

It was this little innocent story that drove me to write this rant, and it's not going to be nice. But first, the story...

After spending 10 days in London with friends who were outspoken about their disdain for President Bush's policies, Berns Rothchild came home wishing she had a way to show the world she didn't vote for him.

"I sort of felt ashamed, and didn't really want to be associated with being an American," said Rothchild, who lives in New York City and voted for John Kerry.

Her mother had a suggestion: bracelets, inspired by the Lance Armstrong Foundation's popular "LIVESTRONG" bands, that would signal opposition to Bush.

Thousands of miles away, two women in Idaho had the same idea. So did a woman in Kansas. The result? At least three separate bracelet ventures targeting left-leaning citizens who want to wear their political affiliation on their wrists — and at least one competitor bearing the opposite message.

Rothchild, 35, is selling blue bracelets that say "COUNT ME BLUE," while Laura Adams, of Fairway, Kan., offers blue bracelets that say "HOPE." The McKnight family, of Moscow, Idaho, is even more direct; their black bracelets proclaim: "I DID NOT VOTE 4 BUSH."

"It's kind of like saying, 'This is my tribe,'" said Adams, 43, a Kerry supporter, who was inspired by her 14-year-old stepson's yellow Lance Armstrong band.

It's unlikely the wristbands will ever have the widespread appeal of the bands created by the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which have sold about 31 million so far to raise money for cancer research. Brenda McKnight, 40, said her family has sold roughly 4,000, and Adams said she has sold about 3,300. Rothchild has sold about 500 since her Web site launched Monday.

But all three ventures also have the aim of raising money for a variety of organizations.

Rothchild, who is selling the bracelets on the Web in packages of 10 for $20, plans to give part of her profits to UNICEF (news - web sites), and Adams has donated money from the sale of her $3 bracelets to Save the Children and Habitat for Humanity.

The McKnights are auctioning their bracelets on eBay and selling them for $3 each on their Web site, where buyers can vote for one of six organizations that will receive a portion of the proceeds.

So far only McKnight said she has received e-mails criticizing the bracelets as unpatriotic. But Rothchild said her venture has spawned a counter-protest — from her Republican father.
The end of the article details an effort by this woman's father to sell red armbands, but it's irrelevant. The line that drove me nuts was the bold italicized one in the second paragraph. Maybe it's just because of who I am, but reading that line made me want to slap this woman's face off my computer screen. She's not some idiot college kid with long hair who hasn't showered in three weeks. She's 35 years old, for crying out loud.

My parents came to this country as immigrants. My dad and mom came here and worked like crazy to build a better life for their family. But they also knew that there was no other place on our planet that affords such an opportunity to immigrants and citizens alike -- work hard, perhaps catch a few breaks, and you can build a great life. My parents did, which is the major reason why my life is damn good (and why my sister and brother also have terrific lives).

Sometime in the 1980's, my dad became an American citizen, and soon thereafter, my mom followed suit. This wasn't an easy decision for them, practically or personally -- you can't maintain dual citizenship with India, and giving up their Indian citizenship meant that it would be more difficult to travel back and forth to visit the bulk of our extended family (that's one reason my mom waited a few additional years) . Personally, that's also a difficult choice -- I don't know this myself, but I don't think that you don't give up that part of your identity without at least some regret. But my parents chose to do it, in part because they lived here and wanted to stay, and in part because this country had done so much for them.

For the past two months, I've had to listen to liberals walk around bemoaning the election. That's fine -- I did plenty of bellyaching in 1992 and 1996, and later expressed tons of outrage at my fellow countrymen for their failure to be outraged over Clinton's dalliance over Lewinsky. I even, on occasion, have expressed disappointment in my countrymen, my government and my country as a whole.

That doesn't mean I'd ever give up my birthright as an American. And if you're willing to feel that way over an election result, then maybe you should seriously consider leaving for Canada, or some other place.

No, this is not an "America -- Love It or Leave It" declaration. It's perfectly okay to be critical of our country and her citizens, and in fact, it's healthy. It's even all right to be ashamed of things our country does. I'd argue that you owe it to your country to criticize it when it does wrong. That's how this country becomes a better place. And while it's cliche to say it, plenty of people gave up their comfort, their fortunes and even their lives to make certain that you had the right to be an American -- and you owe it to them to strive to make this country a better place, and that includes dissent when your country does something wrong.

But that doesn't include threatening to leave your country for Canada, as so many Democrats in blue states did after the election. And it doesn't include not wanting to "be associated with being an American."

Look, our country didn't commit the Holocaust. We didn't commit genocide in Bosnia or Rwanda. And unlike Canada, we're not responsible for Brian Adams or Celine Dion.

What did we do that these people find so outrageous? We returned George W. Bush to office as President. Man, somebody should tell the German people they're off the hook for the rise of Hitler.

Our country has committed its share of sins. The greatest was allowing the enslavement of African-Americans for nearly a century of the nation's existence. Re-electing George W. Bush pales in comparison to that, and to any number of things.

But the real point is this -- you can disagree with the re-election of the President and be upset about it. You can even be ashamed of your countrymen for committing this nefarious act-- although you probably should get a life if you really feel shame about it (then again, I will spend three plus hours tomorrow wearing the jersey of my favorite pro football team in a ritual expression of good luck, so I'm not the best person to tell people to get a life).

But don't tell me you want to give up on your country and move somewhere else, or that you don't want to be associated with America. To me, this is the real difference between conservatives and liberals. I have, on occasion, joked with my friends about the nightmare of a Hillary Clinton Presidency (just typing those words gives me chills). But jokes are one thing -- actively contemplating a departure would be beyond the realm of anything I'd ever consider. And while there idiot conservatives who might say that they want to leave if Hillary is ever elected, I'm betting they don't approach the numbers we see on the left of people who want to depart now.

To me, and to most conservatives, this is the greatest country in the world, warts and all, Hillary Clinton as President or not. To liberals, other places are better, especially if we have someone like George W. Bush in office. And even if they're not leaving, they don't want to be associated with America, because it's such a shameful, horrible thing.

Get some perspective, morons. People don't fight to come to this country to learn and to build lives simply because their nation elected someone they regard as a doofus. They come here because it's the best place in the world, and they recognize it. And if you can't figure that out, then I highly recommend a self-imposed exile to the country of your choice. Maybe you'll be happier there, and if so, we're all better off.

You want to express shame, fine. You want to be angry with your country, fine. You want to believe that your government consists of a combination of bumbling idiots and sinister religious zealots, go for it. You want to sell silly armbands, go ahead (The bracelets aren't unpatriotic, they're stupid. And I don't care if the money goes to charity or not, it's ridiculous to compare these bracelets to the Lance Armstrong ones -- and that includes the red ones.). Just quit pretending that you'd rather be from someplace else, or that there's some place you'd rather be. If you really believe that, then get lost. There's plenty of people out there literally dying to enter America and become American citizens. I'll take one of them in exchange for ten of you.

It's a shame that many people who have the birthright to be an American don't treasure it nearly enough. And while that's human nature, it doesn't mean I'm going to sit here and silently listen to them complain. Try and appreciate what you have, and grow up a little bit while you're at it. And while our great country gives you the right to mouth off like an idiot, you may want to re-consider actually acting like one.

Rant over.


Blogger The Lord of Truth said...

Here, here, Raj. Nicely said. Maybe those silly armbands should be "French yellow", just like the cancer ones - it would be a more appropriate color.

11:33 AM  

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