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A Gutsy Response to the "BAD American" and your Uncle Joe

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Millions of Americans by now have received the "I'm a Bad American" viral e-mail from their Aunt Jane or Cousin Fred during these last few polarizing years. But how many have responded to their friends or relatives? I myself had probably quickly hit the "delete" button on a half dozen myself before I noticed what a marvel of propaganda it was, effectively pressing people's fear-hate-greed-pride-and-blind loyalty buttons. When I Googled and Snoped, I found that the "Bad American" rant originated in 2000 as the "Bad Republican" one. The reactionary screed was originally passed off--hilariously so--as being written by George Carlin but when Carlin issued a denial, an anonymous "BAD American" who "had the guts to put it on the Internet" was substituted as the author.

As you can see, the most recent version (below) comes effectively punctuated with several flags and crosses, an image of "God Bless Us," an even more elaborate one of a $100 bill on top of a cross filled with the American flag and the words "In God We Trust" wrapped around, and to top it all off: a praying cat. No wonder it's gone viral.

When I forwarded the propaganda message to my friend, piano teacher Tom Dickinson, for comment, he decided to answer the anonymous "bad American" point by point and his thoughtful response appears below. I think Dickinson's response is lots gutsier than that of the anonymous e-mail author. And this is why it should be used to respond to your friends and relatives who for some reason thought you prone to fall for this nonsense.

At least he had the guts to say what " I " think and put it on the Internet AMEN !

2009-08-20-badamerican2.jpg

YES, I'M A BAD AMERICAN

I Am the Liberal-Progressives' Worst Nightmare.

I am an American.

I am a Master Mason and believe in God.

I ride Harley Davidson Motorcycles and believe in American products.

I believe the money I make belongs to me and my family, not some Liberal governmental functionary be it Democratic or Republican!

I'm in touch with my feelings and I like it that way!

I think owning a gun doesn't make you a killer, it makes you a smart American.

I think being a minority does not make you noble or victimized,
And does not entitle you to anything. Get over it!

I believe that if you are selling me a Big Mac, do it in English.

I believe everyone has a right to pray to his or her God when and where they want to.

2009-08-20-badamericancat.jpg

My heroes are John Wayne, Babe Ruth, Roy Rogers, and Willie G. Davidson who makes the Awesome Harley Davidson Motorcycles.

I don't hate the rich. I don't pity the poor.

I know wrestling is fake and I don't waste my time watching or arguing about it.

I've never owned a slave, or was a slave, I haven't burned any witches or been persecuted by the Turks and neither have you!

So, shut up already.

I believe if you don't like the way things are here, go back to where you came from and change your own country!

This is AMERICA ...We like it the way it is!

If you were born here and don't like it you are free to move to any Socialist country that will have you.

I want to know which church is it exactly where the Reverend Jesse Jackson preaches, where he gets his money, and why he is always part of the problem and not the solution.

Can I get an AMEN on that one?

2009-08-20-BadAmericanUSA.jpg

I also think the cops have the right to pull you over if you're breaking the law, regardless of what color you are.

And, no, I don't mind having my face shown on my drivers license.

I think it's good.... And I'm proud that 'God' is written on my money.

2009-08-20-badamericaningodwetrust.jpg

I think if you are too stupid to know how a ballot works, I don't want you deciding who should be running the most powerful nation in the world for the next four years.

I dislike those people standing in the intersections trying to sell me stuff or trying to guilt me into making 'donations' to their cause..

Get a Job and do your part!

I believe that it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes two parents.

I believe 'illegal' is illegal no matter what the lawyers think.

I believe the American flag should be the only one allowed in AMERICA !

2009-08-20-badamericanflag.jpg

If this makes me a BAD American, then yes, I'm a BAD American.

If you are a BAD American too, please forward this to everyone you know.

We want our country back!

2009-08-20-badamericanflag2.jpg

We NEED GOD BACK IN OUR COUNTRY!

2009-08-20-badamericangodblessyou.jpg

WE LIVE IN THE LAND OF THE FREE, ONLY BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE!

Now here is Tom's point by point response:

YES, I'M A BAD AMERICAN

YES, I am an American--bad or good judgments on that will rest in how I act for my fellow Americans.

I Am the Liberal-Progressives' Worst Nightmare.

I am injustice's nightmare, small-mindedness's nightmare, fear of change's nightmare, ignorance's nightmare, self-righteousness's nightmare.

I am a Master Mason and believe in God.


I am a piano teacher and I believe that believing in God or not believing in God is private business. Keep it out of public discourse. This is America where no one is judged by beliefs, only how they act for the common good.

I ride Harley Davidson Motorcycles and believe in American products.


What's so great about riding a motorcycle? Try playing a Bach Prelude and Fugue. Or teaching a 9 year old the piano. Now those are thrilling! And noisy, too! I try to buy American products when possible, but not if that American company is hiding from taxes in off-shore tax havens, or making money by sending jobs to foreign countries, or making money supporting the military-industrial complex, or spying on me (telecoms) or being cheapskates with their employees or working to keep their employees from organizing if they want to. Do you know the full story of what you wear/drive/eat/buy?

I believe the money I make belongs to me and my family, not some Liberal governmental functionary be it Democratic or Republican!

I believe the money I make belongs to me, while recognizing I would never have made that money without the full support of my public education, the roads that get my students to me, the fire and police protection my town affords me, etc. I realize that even though I live alone, I don't live apart from my friends, my neighbors, my city, my state, my country. Only people stuck in a child's mindset see government as surrogate parents who "make" you pay taxes and boss you around. Our government is, by design, OURS, yours and mine, to create and to change. Paying taxes is one of my greatest civic roles. Yours, too.

I'm in touch with my feelings and I like it that way!

I'm sometimes in touch with my feelings though that isn't all that noble, like when I rant about how bad other people are, or how I'm being cheated, or when I get bent about things not being just the way I like them. I recognize I sometimes feel victimized by others, but that is not me at my best. My best is when I help others in the way they would like to be helped.

I think owning a gun doesn't make you a killer, it makes you a smart American.


I don't own a gun and think owning a gun makes you neither smart nor idiotic. Owning a gun in order to shoot people in the name of personal protection looks reasonable in the movies. I don't live in the movies. Letting fear be the guide of my personal behavior only makes me small. I've been to a lot of countries and nowhere have I felt as unsafe as in my own where too much of the adult population seems to want to cower behind the courage they derive by having the ability to shoot others.

I think being a minority does not make you noble or victimized,
And does not entitle you to anything. Get over it!


I think being part of a minority or poor doesn't make you victim, but I'm big enough to see that it is very easy to miss how hard it can be to bear the slights and callousness of the majority or the anxiety, frustration, discouragement and, what is worse, the complete pre-occupation with keeping one's head above water that being poor can bring. It serves no one, especially not me, to be cold to my neighbors, to limit my neighborliness to those people I already know, or to think dogmatically that many of the hardships that occur in my community won't be better helped by all of us working together on them through government programs. The question of whether minorities or the poor are entitled to things is looking at it backwards. The better question is how can I help them, how can my community help them make their lives as productive and happy as the most fortunate among us.

I believe that if you are selling me a Big Mac, do it in English.

I believe that if you are selling a Big Mac, do it in English, unless the person buying it doesn't understand you. Every single non-Indian in the US has ancestors who spoke another language, except those from England. And every one of those ancestors learned English as fast as they could to participate more fully in this society. Soon the newest immigrants will become normalized Americans like us. I hope they don't learn intolerance from those who welcome them so badly, those who can't remember where their own ancestors came from or what they went through.

I believe everyone has a right to pray to his or her God when and where they want to.


I believe that everyone has a right to pray to God or not, in the place and manner they want to, as long as it doesn't encroach on others' rights.

My heroes are John Wayne, Babe Ruth, Roy Rogers, and Willie G. Davidson who makes the Awesome Harley Davidson Motorcycles.

My heroes are not an actor who only represented individualism, while being a contract player in the studio system, nor a really talented baseball player, nor a children's television star, nor even the guy who built the greatest motorcycles. My heroes are my parents who worked in and on this America we cherish--and so WERE America--and then tried to teach me how to take up the work; my heroes are those who are not content with second best--who raise the roof for those who don't have the time or the will, my heroes are those like Jesus' shepherd who goes back for the straggling lamb; my heroes are those who don't focus on I/my/me but rather work on that huge and complicated ongoing project of making this place better for everyone in a way that respects and honors the group and respects and honors the individuals in the group; my heroes are those who find joy in the difficult, the new, the unknown, who see that change itself is the one reliable thing in this world, and that trying to keep things the same just makes you sour.

I don't hate the rich. I don't pity the poor.


I don't hate the rich, but I'm curious where their wealth came from, and I don't want the laws we enact to protect their wealth if it means keeping other citizens who naturally have equal standing in our country destitute.

I do pity the poor. As far as possible I will turn that pity into help. I judge myself by how I care for the least among us.

I know wrestling is fake and I don't waste my time watching or arguing about it.

I'm pretty sure the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and John Wayne are fake, but then I've never seen them wrestle....

I've never owned a slave, or was a slave, I haven't burned any witches or been persecuted by the Turks and neither have you!

I have never been a slave, but I'm aware that in the halls of power big money interests have nearly erased whatever say I have in governing. As long as I'm content with this state of affairs I will not know how small and confined my world has become because of it. I have never been a slave, but I'm aware that slavery continues through the world, even in my own country through jobs that people dare not leave, relationships where violence is threatened. Even though slavery was abolished in our country, the job of securing civil rights goes on. Because we're American, we work on this until we get it completely right. That is America's promise and strength--not in saying "I want America back!" but by saying "I want America better!"

So, shut up already.

Manners!

I believe if you don't like the way things are here, go back to where you came from and change your own country!

This is AMERICA ...We like it the way it is!

If you were born here and don't like it you are free to move to any Socialist country that will have you.

I believe if you don't like things the way they are here, you can leave or stay and fix them. Sticking it out to fix things is harder and more annoying both for you and those around you, but as your parents knew when getting you ready for adulthood, you won't usually be liked for it until the results are in, and that moment could be a long way down the road.

I want to know which church is it exactly where the Reverend Jesse Jackson preaches, where he gets his money, and why he is always part of the problem and not the solution.

I want to know where PhRMA and the other health lobbies and the financial lobby, and the military-industrial lobby and the gas and oil lobbies all get their influence. I want to know why they get to have more influence on my congresspeople than I do. I want to know why people who claim to want government out of their lives (even though government is formed to help them) don't seem to want special interests like those out of the government, even though those interests have considerably more influence than we do, while having no interest at all in the people. A strange form of self-hate.

I also think the cops have the right to pull you over if you're breaking the law, regardless of what color you are.

I think the police have the right to pull you over if you are breaking the law, coupled with an enormous responsibility not to abuse that right.

And, no, I don't mind having my face shown on my drivers license.
I think it's good.... And I'm proud that 'God' is written on my money.

[Neither are worth responding to.]

I think if you are too stupid to know how a ballot works, I don't want you deciding who should be running the most powerful nation in the world for the next four years.

I think elections should be run fairly and generously--everyone eligible to vote should be able to register easily, if not automatically. I think ballot procedures should be clear and election officials should be patient and generous with all voters regardless of age, education or apparent cluelessness. I think everyone should be especially careful about pointing out others' stupidity. That kind of thing always comes back to bite you.

I dislike those people standing in the intersections trying to sell me stuff or trying to guilt me into making 'donations' to their cause..
Get a Job and do your part!

I LIKE those people who step out of their comfort zone and speak to issues that concern us all like ending undeclared wars, or speak to issues that concern the voiceless--the destitute, the homeless, the hungry, the powerless. They've probably got jobs AND they are doing their part for their community! The only things we can rely on in this life are sickness, old age and death. Happiness may come, but only those three are guaranteed. Everyone lives through these without exception. I like the people who, knowing all this, take some time out of their happiness to help others with their difficulties.

I believe that it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes two parents.

Of course it takes a village to raise a child, or we'd all live apart. Two parents may be best...or maybe not..., but all kinds of homes are possible--children grow and learn in all of them. That's traditional.

I believe 'illegal' is illegal no matter what the lawyers think.

I believe "illegal" is illegal, and applies to everyone equally, from the lowest crack dealer to the President of the United States. I believe that law enforcement should prioritize its forces to prosecute those who cause the most suffering for the most people, and especially should target leaders who act illegally as they have caused three crimes: the illegal act itself, the corruption of the office they hold, and the betrayal of the trust of the voters or owners who put them in the leadership position.

I believe the American flag should be the only one allowed in AMERICA !

I believe that anyone who obsesses about the American flag, about two parent families, about protesters on street corners, about pride in having "God" on the dollar bill and other such trivialities sees himself as a victim, not as a strong, informed, curious, open-minded, generous citizen who recognizes that the world we have is the world we make.

If this makes me a BAD American, then yes, I'm a BAD American.

To me, the complaints and stances I've responded to don't rise to "good" or "bad". They don't speak to tolerance, support, community. They only react to perceived threats; there is nothing positive in them. Yet the US Constitution in its very first words is all about tolerance, support and community and exhorts each of us and all of us to act together. That's not only not easy, it is very difficult, but our Founding Fathers had confidence that we could do it, confidence some people, like the author of this rant, seem to have lost, or just haven't understood. Those words are: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." This tells the reason for our government to exist. 1. We the people do it. 2. We do it to form a more perfect Union, to establish Justice, to insure Tranquility, provide for defense, promote the general Welfare and secure Liberty--all these things. That's a lot and that's enough.

We want our country back!


My country is here already--proof of our heart and our heartlessness, our intelligence and our idiocy, our wisdom and our ignorance. Without understanding, without a knowledge of history, without an understanding of the Constitution, without tolerance, citizenship in the United States is not possible. Ranting about wanting our country back, when back refers to some movie dream or some religious ideology or some mind's eye picture where everyone looks, talks and acts like me is not exercising citizenship. It's childish babble.

Let's grow up.

Tom Dickinson
Minneapolis