[insert HUGE sigh of relief here]
I've been reluctant to engage in any kind of political discussion in this space -- I've been part of and have been witness to some political discussions that have gotten downright nasty. Otherwise civilized and friendly people were slinging labels and accusations, using words like: imbecile, idiot, jerk, and drawing comparisons to Hitler. My convictions (political and otherwise) run deep, but to me that is just not worth it.
Though we do so imperfectly, one of the things I love about our country is that there is a freedom to disagree. The first amendment of the Constitution guarantees us the right to speak freely. That's all well and good if we agree with the speaker, right? But what if someone is speaking freely about something that makes our blood boil?
What follows is one of my favorite movie quotes from The American President. Toward the end of the film, the president finally responds to the character accusations his opponent has been raising against him. And he speaks to this idea: that American citizenship is tough. It requires so much of us all.
I love you no matter who you vote for. I may disagree with you ideologically and we may have some different ideas about how we should encounter the important issues facing us. Or maybe we agree. I'm up for discussion whenever you are, because really ... nothing is going to change or improve and there is no chance of the dialogue advancing as long as we stay on our sides of the aisle, reaching over only to toss the occasional piece of rotten produce.
So speak freely, friend, and I will, too. Let us listen to one another.
America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free".