I just saw this quote from Newt Gingrich and it’s bothering me.
Ok, usually, I have to give a lot of credit to Newt. He’s a smart guy, a thinker, a fan of science and a master of language. I don’t agree with him on most things but I respect the way he approached governance and his respect for the institutions of government. Then he says stuff like this that is such blatant pandering to a fearful base who wants to be told it’s ok to hate that which appears to be “other” and I kind of want to drop kick him.
What on earth is “traditional America”? What does that mean? Religious Pilgrims from Europe who practiced discrimination against native populations? Revolutionary factions determined to separate from a parent nation? Constitutional framers who excluded an entire gender from the rights laid down in our founding documents? Slave-owning agriculture barons? Corporate tycoons who pay off local government “bosses”? Senators who hold hearings to examine the loyalty of artists and performers? What traditions are under threat?
I’m being obtuse of course. I know what Newt means by “traditional America”. He means Ward and June Cleaver with their pleasant home in a white suburb where their obedient children will graduate from school to take a local job and marry the girl they’ve chastely dated since high school, probably in the church they attend every week. That’s “traditional America”. The American dream. The American experience.
The American fantasy. It’s no closer to the reality of most American experiences than a porno is to the reality of most pizza delivery experiences.
The traditions we should all be holding dear are those laid out for us in the Constitution, as amended to embrace changing attitudes and new enlightenment over time. Instead of hailing “traditional Christian values” we should hail the value of freedom to practice religion without interference from the government. Instead of clinging to “traditional family structures” we should be grateful that the government may not enter our home and examine our families without cause. Instead of debating the”traditional roles” of women in the home and the workplace, we should celebrate that women have no limits on their roles in the home and in the workplace. Instead of trying to insist that everyone in America adhere to a narrow construct of the American tradition, we should be joyful that there are so many American traditions to choose from.
President Obama is no threat to the Constitutional values we all share or the values that individual Americans live by in their private lives. He’s just not. Neither was President Bush* or President Clinton or President Bush or President Reagan or any other President. And if we elect a President Romney or President Hunstman or President Gingrich next year, they likely won’t be a threat to any of those traditions either. There is nothing to be gained from dismantling our nation. No President has gone on to lead the kind of unlimited evil empire that fear-mongers would have us believe they truly want to lead. The people who serve as President, I believe, I have to believe, do their job as they best see fit using history, the Constitution and the US Code of Law as their guide then they walk away and hope that their labors bear good fruit for the future. Anyone suggesting otherwise is selling something.
You can say I’m being naive and not examining the whole picture. Or you can say I’m a filthy hippie who needs Jesus to kick my ass. Or you can say I’m a blind follower of Obama who will excuse his every act. I don’t really care. Because I know what I really am. I am, to borrow from Aaron Sorkin’s The American President, a person who not only loves America but also loves Americans. Unlike Newt and the newsmaking fear-mongers, I don’t hate that which is “other” and I don’t fear those with ideas different from my own. What I fear are those who foster hate and divisive attitudes, those who encourage discrimination, those who claim to love America but can only love some Americans. Because my naive, hippie, Obama-bot self is squarely in the non-traditional American camp and I’m tired of being told I’m less.