Sunday, March 6, 2011

The "America, Love It or Leave It" Types

One sometimes hears from members of the religious right:  "America, love it or leave it!"  Sometimes you even see this offensive nonsense on their bumper stickers.  This is not quite so prevalent these days as it was in my youth.  Back then, the Vietnam war had led to a lot of protests and criticism of the U.S. Government and society.  The authoritarian types responded with this little authoritarian gem of a slogan.

"America, love it or leave it!" is probably the most un-American thing a person can say.  America's central ideal is freedom, both political and religious.  Freedom of speech is the essence of that, and political speech--criticism of the government or society--is the essence of free speech.

What this really means is that this person doesn't believe that U.S. citizens have the right to criticize their Government or society (even in thought, apparently).  Criticism of Government or society is exactly the type of speech that the First Amendment to the Constitution was meant to protect.

No democracy can function unless the voters are informed and are allowed to debate the issues facing that society.  Imagine if Congress were not allowed to say anything critical of current conditions during debate of proposed laws.  Every law would seem like a pointless proposal because no one could ever say why a change was needed.

American voters need the same sort of information.  How else could they make informed choices when voting?  Anyone who says this sort of thing is expressing hostility not just toward freedom of speech but toward democracy itself.  Such a person really has no idea what America is about, how it works, why it was formed, why it is better than most countries.

Such a person knows only that they identify themselves and their ego with America and take any criticism as an insult not to be tolerated.  Such a person usually blindly supports whatever the authority figures say, and becomes like a vicious little child engaged in a deadly sibling rivalry over the insufficient love of a demanding parent when the authority figures are questioned.

Such a person does not believe in freedom of speech (or, apparently, thought).  A person who does not believe in freedom of speech is un-American in the extreme.

Such a person really doesn't care about his country.  There was a bumper sticker during the "W" years that said "Blind Faith in Bad Leadership is not Patriotism".  I love that bumper sticker and couldn't agree with it more. But, it is an understatement.  Only the pathologically anal retentive, blinded by need for the authority figure's approval, would watch his or her country go off a cliff rather than risk offense by criticizing its course.

As an American, I think anyone who questions my patriotism because of my politics is obviously someone who doesn't believe in freedom of thought or speech and is therefore not a true American (in addition to being a stupid asshole).

Finally, you may well ask what this has to do with atheism.  As I mentioned in the first sentence above, this saying is one of those things one hears from the religious right.  I think this is something revealing about the religious mindset.  Religious people tend to say this sort of thing, and be on the right wing, because they are authoritarian.  Obedience to authority is their highest value (indeed, sometimes their only value).  This particular slogan of theirs reveals this mindset and the extent of it.  They simply do not believe in freedom of speech or thought--not for themselves, and most ominously, not for you or me either.

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