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Sarah A. W. Fitts Headshot

It's Time to Occupy Our Symbols

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Last week's CPAC speeches made me angry. Somehow, the keynote speakers talk as if they alone know what it means to be a true American. But CPAC attendees do not reflect the American values we should cherish most. I am a patriotic American and I love America. And I think it's time for the rest of us to speak up and stop letting right wing media and media-loving right wing politicians put words in our mouths. It's time to take back our American symbols. It's time to wave our American flag, admire our Constitution, and it's time to protect our purple mountains majesty and our amber waves of grain. This land is our land and we love it.

I am not sure how we let the right steal the narrative on patriotism and love of country. For me, whenever I did happen to tune into a Palin, an O'Reilly or a Hannity asserting that the left hates America, I'd roll my eyes, but otherwise the statement seemed too stupid to merit a response. That, I realize, was our mistake. As with most big lies, they seem more true with each retelling.

So, it's time to take our symbols back.

It's time to remind ourselves how much we love America.

It's time to defend and protect our core American values.

I challenge my fellow liberals to say what we believe in our hearts and to never let others smear our intentions with their lies again. Make your list and say it out loud. Here is mine.

  • I believe in respecting the office of president, even if I disagree in fundamental ways with the person in office. I respect him because he is the president of the United States, elected by the American people. A patriotic American would never hope that the president fails.
  • I believe in the Constitution's vision of an independent judiciary and three co-equal branches of government. The power of the jury to weigh the evidence and the power of judges to restrain the acts of the most powerful is amazing and wonderful. Threats to an independent judiciary, jokes about sending away or arresting judges, especially by people running for president, show a frightening disregard for the rule of law and our traditions. Could I even call such statements "un-American"?
  • I believe in government of the people, by the people and for the people, and I want to ensure that it does not perish from this earth. Government should not serve the pleasure just of those people who can pay to be heard.
  • I believe in separation of church and state. I believe freedom of religion also means freedom from religion, and that each American may make an individual choice to practice or not practice as he or she may choose. There is no evidence that people who talk about God in public are better people, except when their words are accompanied by genuine acts of kindness.
  • I believe the Oath of Office requires members of Congress to protect and defend the Constitution, and if that is inconsistent with the oath given to unelected anti-tax lobbyists, then the Oath of Office should prevail.
  • I believe that an elected official's duties require that the interests of all Americans be served, not just the party with which he or she is affiliated. A refusal to do what needs to be done because it might also help the other political party should not be considered politics-as-usual; it should be considered reprehensible.
  • I believe in amber waves of grain, and I think supporting environmental policies that protect our air and water so we continue to be the bread basket of the world, so that the air we breathe is clean and we can drink the water we need, and supporting policies ensure that the costs of resource development are paid by those who benefit instead of those who live nearby, makes me a patriotic American, not an environmental radical.
  • I believe the freedom to assemble is a critical feature of American democracy. And I think that when people assemble in public parks, they should bring brooms and trash bags and clean up their own messes, since the parks belong to everyone.
  • I believe that while I may not agree with what you say, I should fight for your right to say it. And I believe I am entitled to the same level of respect from those who disagree with me.
  • I believe that believing America could be a better place than it is and acknowledging that America does not always meet the ideals set for us in the founding documents is simply an acknowledgement of reality, not evidence of lack of patriotism.

So I say to my fellow liberals: Take back our symbols. It's our flag. It's our Constitution. It's our way of life. We are the descendants, whether by DNA or ideals, of people who wanted to change the world and make it better, and who embraced science, technology, knowledge, good deeds and good will. If the founding fathers were conservative we would still be an English colony. Liberals love America, and we love liberty and justice for all.

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