American Pride

Soon the season of patriotism will be upon us. Memorial Day will be followed shortly by Flag Day and the Fourth of July. Songs of civic glory will cause chests to swell. My children will cringe as always when I burst spontaneously into “America the Beautiful”.

However, you may cringe when I say I am not proud to be American. No, not the liberal “I’m ashamed of all the bad things my country has done” hogwash. But honestly, how can I take pride in an accident (or Providence) of birth? For the record, I’m not proud to be British either. There is no great accomplishment in living in a place long enough to be allowed to pay the government a substantial amount of money for the right to live there whenever I choose and vote.

Most national pride is an attempt to take some measure of credit for someone else’s meritorious actions. I recently heard an American mention to a Brit, “If it wasn’t for us, you’d be speaking German.” It was as if he had led a platoon onto the beaches of Normandy. We all want to be along for the ride. That would be the ride in the ticket-tape parade, not the the ride in amphibious landing craft or the armored personnel carrier.

There is a big difference between pride we assume for ourselves and the pride we have in others. The biblical example of the latter is voice of the Father at the baptism of Jesus saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The biblical examples of, and admonitions against, the former are manifold. It was, after all, the first sin.

I am not proud to be an American, but I’m  proud of lot of Americans. I’m thankful for my ancestors who fought  in various conflicts to defend their country. Some fought to stop unjust taxation without representation by Parliament and helped to form this nation. Some had to fight their own countrymen who misunderstood the voluntary compact of the US Constitution by the several sovereign states. They fought for a freedom still misunderstood and mischaracterised.

I’m not proud “we” beat the forces of Nazi Germany. I was not there. I am proud of my uncles and others who did, and I’m not ashamed to shed tears standing amongst the graves at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer. Lately I’ve been watching The Pacific mini-series and I’m proud of a lot of men who went through a lot of hardship and experienced dreadful things for a just cause.

I’m proud of men today like Capt. Jared Carter. I’ve known him since he was born and pray for him every day.  He and the soldiers for whom he is responsbile do their duty and serve their country wherever they are sent into harm’s way. My pride in them is not diminished by whether I agree with the policy decisions made by the administration of a Commander-in-Chief who often does not seem to look out for the best interests of the nation and of whom I am frequently less than proud.

During patriotism season we often focus on those in uniform, but I’m proud of a lot of other Americans who may not have assisted others in defending freedom, but have contributed in so many ways to make the United States a better place to live. They are farmers and factory workers, entrepreneurs and executives, and others in doubtless countless aliterative couplets of vocations who have made America great. There have even been  those who arrived from elsewhere and were unwelcomed by those already here because they were from Ireland or Italy,  Manchuria or some other place.

Because I have not achieved being an American though any heroics of my own, I am loathe to put stumbling blocks in front of those who have suffered hardship to also enjoy the American way of life. I am proud of those who have taken risks to bring their families to a place where there is greater opportunity for prosperity, even when the risk is being imprisoned and sent away by those who received those opportunities by accident or Providence. (I’m not sure if the greater shame is on those who believe in random chance or those who don’t.)

On the other hand, I’m not proud of those who have passed legislation to place greater (and often insurmountable) demands on those who would share in a prosperity and freedom not of the legislators’ own making. Yet their legislation is backed by the righteous indignation and incredulity of those who can’t understand why some people would rather live in the shadows and margins of America than in the place where, again by chance or Providence, they were born.

While I will try hard not to be proud, I am very thankful that I was born an American. I have been blessed to live most of my life in a place and under a government, that while far from perfect, is pretty good compared to the regimes under which most of the world’s population live. I’m very thankful to have been born American because otherwise it is more than likely I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be one.

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Does the Obama Administration Consider You a Terrorist Threat?

The current US administration has shown it’s hand and it’s not backing down. They are defining what it means to be a right-wing extremist and how you — and you might be surprised and just a little worried how many of you this includes – might be a terrorist threat. As reported in the Washington Times,

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she was briefed before the release of a controversial intelligence assessment and that she stands by the report sent to law enforcement that lists veterans as a terrorist risk to the U.S. and defines “rightwing extremism” as including groups opposed to abortion and immigration.

The Washington Times has also published the actual government document, available as a pdf on their website. A right wing extremist terrorist threat is anyone who is antigovernment, and specifically singled out are those rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority. As far as the Obama administration is concerned, Congressman Ron Paul joins the ranks of Timothy McVeigh and Mohammed Atta. Thomas Jefferson was fortunately born two centuries too early or he’d be on the list as well.

Anyone opposed to the passage of “new restrictions on firearms” is suspect as well. Then report further says,

Weapons rights and gun-control legislation are likely to be hotly contested subjects of political debate in light of the 2008 Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in which the Court reaffirmed an individual’s right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but left open to debate the
precise contours of that right. Because debates over constitutional rights are intense, and parties on all sides have deeply held, sincere, but vastly divergent beliefs, violent extremists may attempt to co-opt the debate and use the controversy as a radicalization tool.

So if you are a member of a pro-life group (and who knows what constitutes a group – perhaps you need to be careful which Facebook groups you join), support the Second Amendment, or have served in the Armed Forces, just know that in the Obamanation, you are a threat.

No First or Second Amendment at UVa-Wise, or Writers Who Own Guns Must Be Crazy

Steve Barber was a student at the University of Virginia – Wise. I say “was” because he has been expelled for a paper he wrote for a creative writing class. In his paper, the protagonist thinks about violence against his professor. Apparently there are certain things you just can’t write about.

However, if you are also a licensed gun owner with a carry-and-conceal permit, and you have guns in your car – then you are mentally ill and can be involunarily committed for evaluation. Only crazy people own guns and enroll in creative writing – at least in Virginia.

There is no doubt that officials at UVa-Wise acted in an unjust manner, way outside their authority. They even have a rule that says no guns can be in cars on campus. Unfortunately for them, that’s an attempt to supercede a state law that says the opposite. Based on the involuntary committment, they then got the Commonwealth Attorney to convince a judge to revoke Barber’s gun permit. That’s right. His gun permit was revoked for possessing a gun – not even on his person, which he was entitle to do – but in his car. It doesn’t matter that the evaluation showed that he wasn’t crazy or a threat.

And it doesn’t matter that the actions of the university have a dramatic negative impact on Barber. He will now have to immediately begin to repay his student loans. If he can’t pay them, then they go after him with their Mafia-style tactics. So he has to abandon his plans for a college degree and the only thing he can do is immediately re-join the military. So auch for his plans of going back into the service of his country as a officer.

Don’t expect that he will get any support from the press. No, they have found a great opportunity to trash him – all in the name of “better safe than sorry”. Can’t have another Virginia Tech. But as law professor Eugene Volokh notes, “expulsion would still strike me an excessive remedy; nor would protecting the university from the possibility that he would turn into a Virginia-Tech-style mass killer justify this: If he really does plan to commit mass murder, he could do that as an expelled student pretty much as easily as an enrolled student (since the school doubtless doesn’t have guards at each possible entrance to keep him off campus).”

Yes, a little paranoia goes a long way.

Steve Barber has his own blog now. H/T to Abhishek Saha at Muse Free where I first saw this story.

Nasty

I don’t care what you think about the conflict in Iraq and the part played by US or British forces, some things are just beyond the pale of acceptable behaviour. In the US there are people like Fred Phelps and their protests at funerals. But at least they have a cause, however repulsive and misguided.

In the UK, who needs a cause? It is just enough to be nasty.

From the Daily Telegraph:

Injured soldiers who lost their limbs fighting for their country have been driven from a swimming pool training session by jeering members of the public.