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Vasaris, the Fuzzy Dragon
vasaris
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March 2014
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Vasaris, the Fuzzy Dragon [userpic]
The 'How to be an American' Handbook

It's funny, I've made a comment a couple of times in a couple of places regarding how I don't think my President got the same handbook I did on 'How to be an American.' Through the brouhaha on ari_o's journal yesterday, I've come to the realization that quite a lot of people aren't working from the same edition of the Handbook as I am, and I'm beginning to wonder what comes in the various versions of it.

In the version that my mother gave to me, being an American involves:

1. Granting and protecting the freedom of speech and thought against all comers.

To me, the absolute soul of being an American is freedom of speech, of argument, of debate. The right to bear arms is important, but the the pen is mightier than the sword and you can have it when you pry it out of my cold, dead hand. I would far rather be Cicero, executed with my tongue and hands removed because of the power of my words than be found dead upon the field of battle.

Words have more power to change the world than guns and I want the right to express them as I choose. For this right I would gladly kill or die, because above all else this is what being an American means to me.

2. Telling the straight and honest truth, no matter how bad it hurts, because lies told become festering wounds... and seem to lead to a nasty, international form of septicemia,.

I expect government to lie. It's in the nature of the beast, as there is often no way to keep everyone equally informed of what is going on and why decisions are made as they are. But there are differences between the secrets that governments must hold and lies told to propagate aims nationally or internationally.

From what I can see, the current administration has lied to us and to the world repeatedly in order to achieve agenda's more personal than they should be. The president promised all kinds of things for Afghanistan that he has not delivered upon, or is holding hostage for things that they can't achieve yet. He presumed the existence of weapons that did not exist to justify a war he wanted and when he was proven wrong pretty much said "So what?"

We're supposed to be better than that.

3. Respecting the civil and human rights of all people, not just citizens of the US on US soil.

Abu Ghraib. What more needs to be said?

We cannot maintain a moral high ground that we abandon at will. If we do not condone torture, then we cannot send people to other countries to do it for us. My America is better than this.

4. The presumption of innocence.

This includes saying things like "I know he's got weapons of mass destruction. I just know it."

It's not supposed to work that way. Next to the freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence is part of the core of what being an American means to me.

5. The issue of tolerance aka 'The right to swing your fist ends at my nose.'

The fist doesn't have to be physical.

For example: I can tolerate that someone doesn't like homosexuals. They've a right to their opinion, even if I can't understand it. As long as someone's prejudices don't impact another person's civil rights/liberties, I can ignore it.

6. Respecting the views of others, even when they don't respect mine.

I can respect that the average Republican doesn't hold the same values I do at the forefront of their thoughts. That doesn't mean I can't think that their priorities are skewed or that the self-imposed blindness of the conservative Christian front are frightening. I'm willing to try and work around it, because I respect that those views exist and are valid for the holders, but that doesn't make them less scary to me.

7. The law is the law. Laws aren't always just, but I have the right to protest them to high heaven and try to get them changed without fear of repercussion.

I can write my congressperson, picket, protest and vote without fear of being fired or put in jail as long as I violate no laws. This, too, is something I would fight or die for.

8. Respecting the office of a politician does not equate to respecting his or her person.

I'm allowed to despise the man who has been elected president. I am allowed to say so. I respect that he has a hard job and that it's difficult to please everyone, but being President of the United States does not instantly confer an IQ worth speaking of.

9. Civil disobedience is valid if (and only if) you use it correctly.

The soul of civil disobedience is breaking the law, taking responsibility and then using the system as the vehicle of protest. This means going to jail, going to trial, and pleading your case within the system. Breaking the law and then skipping the rest of it has a different name: terrorism.

As an example: Shooting abortion-clinic doctors. If the shooter also goes to trial, admits culpability, uses the system to get out his/her message and serves his/her sentence -- be it a life term or execution -- I'd have to call it civil disobedience, no matter how horrific I find the crime. Randomly sniping such doctors and handing out press releases about it is terrorism.


To my fellow Americans -- I know I haven't made a comprehensive list, but those are the things I thought of first. Any other suggestions about what should be on it? Discussion is welcome :)

To my fellow non-American citizens of the world: What are the things you see as being part of the 'How to be an American' handbook?

Edit: That's a bit long, innit? cut added.

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: Mike and the Mechanics -- Beach of Gold
Comments

You know I often wonder if people (not you specifically) realize that Freedom of Speech does not mean "Say what ever you want." There are quite a few things you can't say with out repercussion (the sort I got yesterday - and I knew I would) or things that are illegal, slanderous, or a threat to the safety to others.

Cicero is a good example of someone who was too smart by half and was punished for it - and although our Free Speech rules would protect him from certain things - I think our Justice system would also sue him for defamation of character.

See? People are stupid.

You know I often wonder if people (not you specifically) realize that Freedom of Speech does not mean "Say what ever you want." There are quite a few things you can't say with out repercussion (the sort I got yesterday - and I knew I would) or things that are illegal, slanderous, or a threat to the safety to others.

*nods* Very true. There are limits to it, such as the infamous "fire" in a packed theatre. And it *is* one of the difficult questions, really -- where are the lines of what one can say, should say and can't say?

There are certain well-defined areas of "can't say." The whole craziness that occurred over anniesj represents some of ill-defined areas of "can't say."

I'm not a fan of slander or libel -- one of the reasons I really hated the political commercials because while they could skate on 'Well, I didn't say that,' the inferences were clear and often in the defined areas of "can't say."

But one thing that I cherish is the fact that you can express an opinion, good, bad, turkey-basted, or whatever without the government generally getting involved. Upsetting people can be unfortunate, but they've the right to air their opinions too.

And I honestly think that's part of what makes us great, at least in theory.

Cicero is a good example of someone who was too smart by half and was punished for it - and although our Free Speech rules would protect him from certain things - I think our Justice system would also sue him for defamation of character.

Oh, goodness yes. I adore the Second Philippic Against Antony for all its snarky goodness, but if he'd tried it here he'd've been successfully sued for defamation. No question.

But there's a certain kind of fairness to it, because the words are clear when he starts his harangue. It's not the shadowy inferences that our politicians are stuck with. It's similar to the difference between someone being nude or their nudity being somewhat veiled in some way. Just as the second tends to be more erotic than the first, implications can be more damaging than actual statements.

It's a lot easier to refute statements.

and yes, people are very stupid, which I need to go experience first hand. Yay. "Really, the sign that says restrooms means that's where they are. Honestly."