We differ most with what we love
There’s been quite a kerfuffle about Donald Trump and his recent Tweets urging four liberal Democrats to go back where they came from. More disturbing, since we’ve come to expect such rhetoric from Mr. Trump, is the crowd that chanted “Send her back.”
Though it’s certainly not the first time we’ve heard someone who criticized U.S. policies urged to get out or “go home.” That was routine back in the day when the Bread and Puppet Theater in Glover had its huge annual circus. Bread and Puppet does political theater, often critical of national or international policy.
Mr. Trump broke new ground (at least in modern times) with his words, or Tweets, only because he’s President.
There are several reasons for people of any political stripe to be wary of such a sentiment, however.
In this case, the four women in question are, of course, women. They are also women of color.
Is it okay to differ if you’re white and male? We haven’t heard anyone tell Bernie Sanders to go back where he came from, and he’s not exactly a devoted Republican. He is, in fact, a loud, 40-year critic of the status quo.
And what is this country about if not democracy, disagreement, freedom to have a different opinion and express it? The United States has battled with freedom of expression since its inception, and largely given over to allowing it to a huge extent. This was not a country intended to be ruled by unquestioning loyalty to a single leader — we believe that’s called a dictatorship — it’s a country meant to do the opposite. It’s a country precisely set up with various branches of government to question, examine, and sometimes counteract each other in the interest of the public good. It’s a country that relies on an informed and questioning populace to function as it was meant.
Questioning prevailing government — in a civil and informed way — is this country’s strength and must be preserved in order to preserve the essence of America.
Logic insists that, if we must profess blind devotion to a President and his policies in order to be loyal, country-loving citizens — or go home — just about everybody is going home (depending on who’s president and what the political persuasion is). Although where home might be could be hard to determine given that nearly everyone in the U.S. is an immigrant or descendant of one.
Vermont isn’t known for racism. However, the Ku Klux Klan was once active here — there are some who still remember cross burnings, not because of blacks — there weren’t many basically — but because of French Canadians, deemed by many as of inferior intellect and morals and a threat to civilized, white, Protestant society. (French Canadians weren’t necessarily considered white.) By now, I think we can safely conclude they didn’t destroy the fabric of society.
General Ulysses Grant said, upon assuming the presidency, after winning the Civil War: “It is too late in this age of enlightenment, to persecute any one on account of race, color or religion.”
That was more than 100 years ago.
As for love of country? If we all had to leave rather than differ with who and what we love most, would there be a marriage that lasted more than a month? Would there be a child who wasn’t eventually put in the street?
Marriages don’t thrive on blind obedience and acceptance. There’s a lot of negotiation and compromise rather than an unquestioning embrace of ideas and priorities not always your own. You love this man or woman, despite faults, and work to get along, make it better, and remain a union. We’d wager most of us have differed with a spouse, had an argument, but it doesn’t mean we want a divorce.
We love our children, probably more than anything else, but we don’t give them free reign. We reprimand, we make suggestions, urge new paths of behavior, encourage. They often don’t like it. Rather than offer constructive criticism and sometimes a real stern “no,” should we leave them instead because we differ? Or tell them to leave us?
We question, and differ with, what we love. It’s as vital to question the course of the country as it is to monitor the course of our children. Both are ever evolving. Both need oversight, attention, and dissent, and the love that’s behind that. — T.S.