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A difference of opinion

May 21, 2007

I’m proud to be an American. Much more than just the chorus of a beautiful song by Lee Greenwood, those words inspire. Yes, I’m proud to be an American. I was blessed by God to have been born in this, the greatest country in the history of planet Earth. 

I’m also an individual. As such, I think for myself. I evaluate empirical evidence and formulate my own opinions. I don’t need a preacher, priest, rabbi, mullah, sheik, swami, monk or even a radio talk show host to tell me what to think. 

There are many people the world over who see this country as a beacon of freedom and hope. The “huddled masses, yearning to be free” have over the years come to this country in search of the American dream. Current estimates put the number of people residing in the US under other than legal immigrant status at between 11 and 20 million. The very concept of the American dream is a powerful motivator. Powerful enough to convince people to leave their homes and risk everything to come here. 

Some see America as a protector. Indeed, for years Western Europe was under the protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Any Soviet aggression would surely be met by an equally strong reaction by the US. If the Soviet Union was foolish enough to use nuclear or chemical weapons, it would have triggered a response leading to mutual assured destruction (a policy anointed with the appropriate acronym “MAD”). 

Others see the US as an arrogant bully; the world’s only super power that enjoys telling everyone else how to live, what form of government to “elect” and with whom to trade for goods and services. We’ve been known to decry human rights abuses in other countries, yet upon occasion, we’ve been accused of the same. 

Yet other groups think of us as oppressors, invaders and occupiers who show no reluctance at destabilizing or striking out against those whose view of the world is different from our own. To them, we are called by many names, none of which are terms of endearment. Some of them are compelled to act out their rage, to strike back at the perceived oppressor. Osama bin Ladin is a conduit for unity to many people in the Middle East who would otherwise abhor the use of terror tactics. And they only attack us because they perceive our “civilized” combat rules as a sign of weakness. To them, we are a toothless tiger. Perception and spin is all that matters in that corner of the world. Free thinkers are the exception rather than the rule. People there, look to others to formulate their thoughts for them. 

No rational person can give Osama bin Ladin and his bunch of murderous fanatics a pass for 9/11. The mass murders of that day will never be justified to any but the most deranged of fanatics. But to think that they hate us because of our democratic system of government is purely foolish. They hate us for some of the policies our government has executed in their back yard. It is not my intent to pronounce judgment on my government. I’m merely illustrating the fact that not everyone sees the world as we do and that sometimes their reactions are violent. It is also not the first time a group has attacked the US because of their perception of our foreign policies — remember Pearl Harbor? The difference between the two events is that one was a nation attacking out of desperation; the other, a group of fanatics seeking a political victory. Both gave the rationale that it was a reaction to our policies that drove them to action. 

Speaking of perception and spin, for years radio talk legend Rush Limbaugh, Rush wannabe Sean Hannity and other Republican oracles have lambasted liberals for their assault on free speech. Yet in the aftermath of the Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, members of the Republican establishment are calling for Rep. Ron Paul to be excluded from future debates. Rep. Ron Paul had the audacity to state some of the obvious reasons why some people around the world might have reason to hate the U.S.

During the debate, Fox News set up a poll. The audience “voted” by sending a text message from a cell phone. In the immediate aftermath of the debate, GOP mouthpiece Michael Steele pronounced judgment on Ron Paul, saying he was done and should probably be eliminated from future debates. Then the first results of the poll were announced, showing Ron Paul clearly in the lead. The ensuing gnashing of teeth and struggle for air gave the impression that someone on the set had just passed gas! 

Political debates are a mechanism for comparing the positions of each candidate. The differences between the participants help us determine whom we can and cannot support. This debate featured a man who disagreed with many of the positions of the other participants. If all candidates agree on every issue, there is no need for debate and no reason for more than a single candidate. 

It’s been years since I listened to talk radio with any regularity. Anxious to hear Republican mainstream reaction to the debate, I tuned in on Friday. The daily regurgitation of over-the-air religion reminded me of why I stopped tuning in. Both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity received calls from people clearly wanting to talk about Ron Paul. While Limbaugh courteously dismissed Paul as not having a snowball’s chance, Hannity was obviously upset to the point of being rude to his guests (the callers). Both Limbaugh and Hannity put forth the mainstream view that Paul is only being advanced by liberal bloggers. That is either a very myopic view, or a blatant attempt to spin the story. 

I’ve been eligible to vote for the past 35 years. Because voting is more of a privilege and responsibility than a right, I’ve never missed voting in an election. The last time I felt really good about voting for a presidential candidate was when I had the privilege of casting my vote not once, but twice, for Ronald Reagan. Until 4 years ago, I always registered to vote as a member of the Republican Party. Over the years, the Republican Party has changed — as everything does. But when did the Republican Party come out in favor of censorship? A difference of opinion used to be the beginning of a dialogue, not the end of civilities.

 

The Party of Ronald Reagan is gone. So too is my automatic allegiance to it.

 

Until next time,

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2007 5:21 am

    You’re either with them, or against them. There’s no middle ground or room for individuality anymore.

  2. May 23, 2007 2:56 pm

    Perhaps not to them. That’s why I’m a Libertarian. I don’t agree with everything the Libertarians say, but they are a much closer match to my political philosophy.

  3. Berge permalink
    June 29, 2007 9:23 pm

    Chosun1 –

    Are you asleep on the job again…A month goes by an no update…I know well enough to know you surely can’t be that busy….

    JB

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