what do we stand for?

lyrics excerpt from macklemore's 'same love'for reasons unknown, macklemore and madonna’s maudlin marriage ‘same love’ (but sadly not same key) grammy ‘spectacular spectacular‘ made me think of ‘america the beautiful‘. the latter’s lyrics speak of “grace” and “brotherhood” and of “self control” and of “liberty in law” and of “liberating strife” and of loving “mercy more than life” and of “nobleness” and of a “patriot dream that sees beyond the years”…and all of that “from sea to shining sea”.

admittedly, the poetry is belied by a history in which we often forgot, ignored, misapplied, twisted, or only paid only lip service to those ideals. but whether we live up to them or not, i believe they have been, from even before the penning of the declaration’s “self-evident” truths, part of america’s DNA. she was born that way.

the sine non qua of the american spirit is the submission of personal preference and belief to the principles of freedom and equality. when you vote to deny someone freedom or equality, you are not being american. instead, you are abusing your rights as an american.

conversely, it is the epitome of american character when a citizen-cum-champion votes heartily in favor of freedom and equality for his fellow man, no matter his creed or color or any number of other oft-estranging categorizations. “no freedom till we’re equal.” that is why it is not intolerant to be intolerant of intolerance. and that’s why i love ‘same love’.

to the extent that we have failed in forming a more perfect union, i believe that we can blame fear. fear in the human heart is fed by many ideas, notions that we cannot expect to soon erase from the minds of men. what i believe is possible, however, is to convince americans to love freedom and equality more than they hate whatever it is that they fear.

to the conservative mind, which is claimed to value stability and fear change, please consider (and perhaps take solace in) construing freedom as your foundation and equality as your tradition. to the liberal mind, which is alleged to value fairness and fear injustice, i don’t have a congruent suggestion. perhaps, though, an admonishment: in your quest for fairness, please fight against a culture of entitlement and please don’t diminish personal responsibility.

to minds of all stripes, consider letting go of thinking in terms of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – that is to say, let’s stop ‘should-ing’ on each other because that is when walls go up. instead, let’s explore what works and what doesn’t. let’s seek to create a shared vision of the world that we want to live in, and then discuss the things that must be done to create it. want to live in peace? then we must live and and let live.

i do not believe in the existence of natural rights; the only rights that exist are the ones that we create. by our own definition, rights are not earned…if they were, we would just call them rewards. citizenship or privileges may come with responsibilities, but there are no responsibilities associated with basic rights. this is not to say that consequence does not exist. in fact, consequence, whether natural or legislated, is the only thing that can and must stand between freedom and chaos. in consequence i trust. perhaps it is in god that you trust. either way, let’s trust. if we trust, we don’t have to fear what happens when we stand by our nation’s commitment to freedom and equality (and justice)…for ALL.

to be an american is to embrace grace…to actively, proudly and passionately bestow upon every fellow man and woman the very same “free and unmerited favor” that we ostensibly enjoy from the god under which our nation claims to exist. render to god what you will, and render to caesar what is caesar’s. america is rooted in and asks for ’same love’. please grant her that. wholeheartedly. from sea to shining sea.

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2 thoughts on “what do we stand for?

  1. Aaron – I read as requested, but I hope you were not expecting me to agree with your perspective. In fact, other than agreeing that America the Beautiful is a great song, I’m not sure I can find much room for concurrence. Without attempting to address your entire commentary, let me offer just a few thoughts in response. (1) WRT “America the Beautiful,” I’d ask you to look at the closing words of the first stanza – “God mend thine every flaw; Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law.” Katherine Lee Bates was very eloquent in her presentation, but she made sure to include the balance between liberty and responsibility. It seems that you delight in emphasizing the former without inclusion of the latter. Even without emphasizing the song’s repeated cry for a divine blessing, it is clear that the message is one of freedom in moderation. (2) As far as your conclusion about the “Sine no qua” of the American spirit being the submission of personal preference and belief to freedom and equality, this seems more aspirational on your part than grounded in any evidence or precedence. While Americans can be semi-rapid about their freedom, they have rarely shown that level of emphasis on equality and both principles commonly fall behind personal preference and belief in the daily lives of most of the citizenry. (3) Fear is not the obstacle to our illusive “more perfect union”. I see the point you are trying to make, but its a bridge to far. You want to claim fear as the barrier and then label that barrier as the result of intolerance and ignorance. The barrier to your version of a more perfect union is the self-control and principle referenced above and the adherence to natural law that you so easily dismiss. You want us to consider letting go of thinking in terms of right-wrong and good-bad, but really you just want us to redefine what is right and good on your terms. I find it very difficult to believe that you would aspire to a society without some form of a moral structure. Also, if you don’t believe in natural rights, the what drives you to espouse freedom and equality as the baseline truths for America? While I enjoyed reading, if given the choice between doors and dead ends, this one is a dead end. – JP

    • thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts and providing a response. a few things: 1. katherine lee bates was a lesbian. just sayin’. 2. i don’t see how you think that i’ve thrown away responsibility. since i value personal responsibility, either i’ve done a poor job of communicating my thoughts on freedom or you’ve twisted my words. 3. those who shout most loudly of their patriotism are often the least american of all, for they are often the most fearful of change. the most hateful, ignorant speech spews forth from conservative strongholds, not from liberal camps. you’ll never hear a liberal say “speak american” or be offended at images which portray people from all walks of life living out their own version of the american dream. 4. my vision for america is simple and pure: it is a vision of freedom and equality. it is blind to creed and race and preference. your vision is clearly one of theocracy and dominion. that is not american. it is the antithesis of american. it is religion. 5. the church is losing as much ground as it is losing touch. take solace, however, that the leaders in the new order will grant you more liberty and equality and protection than you ever granted us.

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