Make America civil again

America is in the midst of a crisis. It’s a crisis of uncivil behavior.

Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of Whether you feel undermined by shifting demographics in the United States of America or unhappy with the man who currently occupies the Oval Office, each of us is entitled to an opinion.

The First Amendment specifically protects our right to express these opinions freely. The language is unambiguous, and our democratic republic can never be considered secure where this right is threatened.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

copied from official US government site (emphasis mine)

When any individual or group employs harassment and violence against another in an attempt to silence peaceful expression of free speech, the aggressor is the greatest threat to American values and freedom.

Even if a hator a flag or a black shirt—is as much symbol as functional object, still it can never be seen as permission to incite violence in the United States of America. Let it provoke debate, but keep your hands to yourself and don’t presume to have the authority to exclude the one you argue with from his right to hold opinions, however odious they may be.

Replacing one oligarchy with another will not make previously oppressed Americans more equal. I say this in spite of my full agreement with the fact that we, as a nation, have a history of racial and other discrimination that must be faced and should be addressed to give every citizen his or her due.

I believe we all benefit when each person is free to achieve his or her full potential. Racism undermines America. Classism undermines America. Sexism undermines America.

So, too, does political intolerance undermine the fabric of American freedom and democracy.

Definition of fascism

1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

definition from (emphasis mine)

Let Europe descend once again into fascism if it must while the Russians revert to Soviet style censorship and ban criticism of the government, but let’s keep that intolerance and social regimentation outside our borders. We were never homogeneous, nor should we ever aspire to be. Let’s let our differences strengthen us so we can continue to shine as a beacon of hope for oppressed populations around the world who still “yearn to breathe free.”

Statue of LibertyI, personally, find it frankly unpatriotic for anyone to declare, on his hat or in his own words, that America needs to be made “great again.” So long as we continue to “hold these truths to be self-evident,” and empower people to their “unalienable Rights” to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” I will swell with pride for the greatness of my nation.

Greatness, but not perfection. Beyond intellectual infancy, it’s fairly obvious that all human endeavors will include flaws. The best thing about mistakes is that we may learn from them. We have the power to make a better world if we work together.

A living, breathing society must evolve to meet its citizens’ needs as time marches inexorably on. America doesn’t need to be made “great,” but it could do with a great deal more civility. When we lose the ability to communicate in spite of our differences, and when our politicians refuse to work together to conduct the business of government, our way of life is truly threatened.

When people in the streets take to attacking one another for the display of symbols, we have descended into lawlessness and put America at risk. This is what gang-bangers do over their “colors;” is that the standard we want to apply to the rest of us?

My favorite artistic expression of the First Amendment comes from the rap song “Freedom of Speech” by Above the Law. It featured on the soundtrack to the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume.

“…Yo, I thought this country was based upon freedom of speech
Freedom of press, freedom of your own religion
To make your own decision, now that’s baloney
Cause if I gotta play by your rules, I’m bein phoney
Yo, I got to cater to this person or that person
I got to rhyme for the white or the black person?
Why can’t it all be equal?
Music is a universal language for all people…”

Lyrics By – Cold 187um, Laylaw*

Note if  you give it a listen: triumphantly explicit lyrics that I deem precisely appropriate to the concept of protected personal expression.

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