This I Believe

Andrew - Niskayuna, New York
Entered on December 11, 2006

This I believe is true, that we are a blessed group of individuals living in the greatest nation on earth. If this is what I believe, then what I know is that it saddens me to hear the character of our nation so frequently defamed in so many ways as being a beacon of tyranny and imperialism by the very citizens that enjoy the many benefits she provides. It is a difficult line for the patriotic like me to navigate, the impulse to lash out against criticism of that which we love when so much of what we love is connected to the liberties of expression synonymous with this republic. I am reticent to resort to cliché, but the quote “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” widely attributed to be a summary of Voltaire’s philosophy by Evelyn Beatrice Hall comes to mind. Such is my mantra, or at least on the face I show to the world. However on the inside, on places of my heart never touched by sunshine yet illuminated with acknowledged good favor, I feel a sting, a burn, a stab to hear that which I love so much so rudely verbally assaulted on so many levels. I’ve read Zinn, I know the whole deal, but I read it with the inner feeling that I was so blessed to read a work hostile to a government in power without fear of reprisal from said government. Somehow this has escaped so many of my contemporaries, as my now expired experience as an undergraduate student has exposed me to generous helpings of anti-American sentiment in so many ways. In my final semester of college I opted to take an upper level English course called “Land of Optimism, Land of Pessimism,” for no other reason beyond my enjoyment of literature classes and the material they expose me to. I was so saddened so often to hear my fellow students speak of this nation in such vitriolic tones in the course of class discussion. I was not surprised by the sentiments expressed, as four years of interactive class room discussion has made anti-Bush, anti-corporate America rhetoric part of the daily grind for which I feel nothing. If people hate our President, and they so choose to express themselves, then I remember the ideas of Voltaire and exhale, and smile. Similarly if people see Wal-Mart, Halliburton, or any other such corporation as the definitive evil entity in Western Society, I once again recall Voltaire, exhale, and smile at the liberty this nation affords us. The classroom discussion in this course was somehow different, less focused on specific actions that breed distaste, more connected to a general hatred of our country. I recall around Thanksgiving one girl in my class, a bright girl who seemed to have a strong mind for literary analysis, discussing how she sees Thanksgiving as a racist holiday given our Nations admittedly deplorable treatment of the Native Americans that would ensue in the years to follow the original Thanksgiving celebration. As such she personally was going to boycott the holiday, a move I applaud in any instance for any individual against any entity that they disagree with. What startled me was the amount of support the idea of a boycott of Thanksgiving generated amongst my fellow classmates, as many voiced in affirmations of their perception of Thanksgiving as a holiday that celebrates the racist conquest of America and the eradication of the indigenous population by the bloodthirsty puritans. It’s simply not the case that Thanksgiving is racist; in fact it has long been associated with the initial harmony a small colony of wayward settlers found with the natives to this land. I can find no justifications for this anger towards Thanksgiving save for its association with traditional American values and America itself, and this seems to be what it has all boiled down to. The intelligentsia has a long standing love affair with anti-Americanism, and the latest target seems to be Thanksgiving because of some vague connection between the holiday and the mistreatment of the American Indian. I am all for cultural sensitivity, I disagree with but respect the move to disavow any good ever done by Christopher Columbus, and I would support a movement to get Andrew Jackson off the twenty dollar bill if it ever came up, however this Thanksgiving business is a stretch. This I believe is true, that as much as this nation affords us the liberty to disparage it at will, it would be in everyone’s best interest to recall the wonders afforded to all by the Nation that so many hold in such disdain.