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Robert J. Elisberg Headshot

When a Country Needs a GPS Just to Find Itself

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I would like my country back, please. Thanks very much. When you're done joy-riding with it, just leave it in the driveway. No questions asked. At least not until Congress changes parties. Then there might be a few questions. Don't worry. Much.

The interesting thing about this America place you drove off with, that makes it worth the effort getting back, is if anyone dislikes a political view, fair enough. Disagree all you want. Even to this. That's what America is about. It can take it, it's tough. Freedom, liberty, justice for all, shining light of democracy, this land is your land. That sort of thing. We all know that. Say it proudly under a flag, because you're a patriot. Say it just as proudly anywhere else, though, and you're a bleeding heart.

A Liberal. The "L" word. A traitor. Treasonous. Evil.

At what point did intolerance become an American virtue?

At what point did building a wall between people become a demonstration of love of country?

At what point did thinking you could tell others what language they can sing songs become an act of patriotism?

When did winning a free election make you unpatriotic and the messenger of terrorists?

We all learned in school about America. And we learned to love it, almost as much as recess. The Four Freedoms. That was what America was about. "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

But when you say it, be prepared to support it. Mean it. At least, understand it.

Understand that considering someone traitorous for simply disagreeing with the President - an elected public servant - that is the most Un-American attitude of all. Anytime.

Make no mistake, this is all intolerance, not patriotism. Even during WWII, it was accepted by many to vilify Franklin Roosevelt. And he was merely fighting Nazi Germany trying to wipe out a race of people and take over the world. But that criticism was all right. Because what is American is the right to stand up and risk being profoundly wrong

Even during WWII, it was accepted to criticize your own party when in power. Senator Harry Truman investigated war profiteers, investigated the lack of military preparedness. And that criticism was not only all right, but it got him named Vice-President. And eventually President. Go figure. It turned out to be a good career move.

What is American is a rich debate of opinions. Celebrating expertise. Inviting families to both sides of the aisle. Accepting differing views, from all seats of the room. It's a free country. Okay, except for gas.

The thing is, when you shut out others, too much of what is being heard is just sort of...creepy.

We have a national media figure publishing a book whose very title equates Liberals with despots, terrorists and evil. Not that Liberals are "wrong." Evil. Another of these media ambassadors has a book that equates every Liberal foreign policy action for the past half century with treason. How's that for accepting differing views?

Do we actually consider these American attitudes? Do we put our children to bed praying they'll grow up close-minded?

Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote in her book, "Team of Rivals," about how Abraham Lincoln put together a cabinet of his political enemies. All he did was end up saving the union.

In our last national election, we had two Keynote Addresses, one which appealed to our better angels, another that suggested the opposing Presidential candidate, who had devoted his entire adult life to public service, winning medals in battle defending the country, was giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Because he disagreed.

We have the highest levels of government conspiring to discredit a man by revealing his wife's secret work on behalf of the country, even if that meant weakening the country. Because that man disagreed.

Disagree. Just explain why, honestly, in specifics. So that we can all understand. I can tell you precisely why I disagree with George Bush on Iraq, the economy, education, Iraq, the environment. Challenge me: tell me precisely why I'm wrong.

However, saying you don't like Hillary Clinton because she's "strident," or Al Gore because he's "wooden," or John Kerry because he "flip-flops" is meaningless. We're all galling. We're all awkward. We all change our minds when conditions change. Even George Bush. He was against the Homeland Security Act, then he was for it. He was against having a 9/11 Commission, then for it. On and on. Fine, okay. We get it, life changes.

Trust those you're talking to.

When you say you love your country, then at least like the people who make up that country.

When you build those walls around the United States, make sure that while keeping others out, you're not also locking yourself in.

Be fair. Be decent. Be honorable. Listen. Be American about it. Be actual patriots. Even if you're not standing under a flag at the time. A chorus of voices lets us all sing as a nation. Give me your tired, your poor. All men are created equal. We, the People.

Yes, I know, bleeding heart stuff like that. Call it Compassionate Liberalism. No, actually, just compassionate.

I would like our country back, please. You've borrowed it long enough.

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