Random Erik

Ramblings on Cartoons, Music, Pop Culture and Whatever

Bad American

I’ve just received one of those emails listing qualities that make someone a “Bad American”, and how the author is proud to be one. It starts by claiming the author to be a “Liberal-Progressives (sic) Worst Nightmare”.

Bad American quality number one? He didn’t pay attention when they discussed apostrophes in the American public school system. Maybe the teacher had a progressive-liberal attitude towards punctuation and the author dutifully ignored the lesson.

This piece has been circulating since at least 2000, and has been attributed to George Carlin (who disavowed it), Ted Nugent (who published it in his magazine, but didn’t take credit for it), Andy Rooney and others. While no one is sure, many agree it likely was a contributor to freerepublic.com who goes by the moniker “Bootyist Monk”.

There are many other things listed as beliefs of the “Bad American”: the right to gun ownership, freedom of religion, Harley Davidsons, American products, a “speak English or leave” attitude, etc. The list I received had been shortened in some places and added to in others, often tellingly. And hey, I agree with some of the statements and disagree with others. I just wanted to clarify that, since I’ll be focussing on the latter.

Is this hypothetical “Bad American” a liberal-progressive’s worst nightmare (I just had to include the apostrophe, it’s the American way, and yes, I used the correct apostrophe for it’s)?

What the people spreading this particular viral email don’t seem to get is that while a liberal-progressive may not agree with them, they likely believe in the writer’s right to say these things. That’s all part of the Bill of Rights, and the US Constitution is one of the greater (arguably the greatest) political documents. It’s an amazingly flexible piece of writing which has acted as a road map for the American experience. At times during our history, this document has been ignored and abused, but America always seems to right itself and continue to operate by the principles it sets forth. Most liberal-progressive writers I’ve read are quite keen on the whole thing.

People of good conscience may disagree on some points, but our system of government is flexible enough to examine and attempt to clarify these things. (For instance, is the right to unfettered gun ownership guaranteed, or only in the case of maintaining a state militia? A recent Supreme Court ruling has started to answer this question, but leaves many questions open).

Let’s get back to the First Amendment, our “free speech” clause and perhaps the most important part of what people think of as being free. Free speech, free expression. This is where I think the email loses its footing, moving from using “Bad American” ironically and actually becoming a bit anti-American. For instance, there are multiple attacks on people who speak other languages. The author obviously fails to realize that free expression is not limited to words spoken in a single language.

There is also a note about how there should only be a single American flag (not mentioned in the original). I wasn’t aware that there was an attempt to bring in a second flag. Perhaps this is a comment on people flying the flags of other countries (see that freedom of expression thing, though). Or do they also feel that state flags, organizational flags and the like should also be avoided? In any case, the author has the right to say these things. And if they found themselves prevented from doing so, that liberal boogeyman of the Right, the ACLU, would be there for them.

There is also a tip of the hat to freedom of religion. “Everyone has the right to pray to his or her own God.” In earlier versions, the language is “his or her own God or gods”. It’s interesting to see the nod to polytheism excised. Also excised is the phrase “just leave the rest of us out of it”. And a mention that this should also apply to sexuality. I’m wondering whether the sentiment applies to not praying at all because you don’t believe there’s anyone to pray to.

By the way, my mail’s sender emphasized this sentiment by including a picture of a praying kitten. I believe in free expression as deeply as I believe in anything, but I would almost be willing to draw the line at emailing pictures of praying kittens. But that’s part of my character: I may get irritated or poke fun at other people’s means of expression, but I’m not out to stop them.

This email also has a strong America, love it or leave it sentiment. This is a big change from earlier versions. Oddly, there is an attitude that there is nothing wrong with America and that people feeling that things could be changed for the better would do better elsewhere. That hoary cliche of “Go back where you came from” is invoked. Now I’m certainly not perfect, no organization I’ve ever been part of is perfect and our country isn’t perfect. I think it’s truly American to peacefully pursue changes that you believe will improve the country. Again, people of good conscience may disagree on what changes are good, but the ability to express these feelings is right up there with baseball and apple pie.

I guess what irked me enough about this protected-by-freedom-of-expression email was the attitude that stating these views makes the writer the nightmare of a progressive-liberals. And the attempt to ironically use “Bad American” therefore implies that the progressive-liberals are the bad Americans. To me, it seems a bit self-aggrandizing and muddle-headed. Besides, the earliest version read “I Am Your Worst Nightmare.” I kind of like the “one person alone against all” feeling. And it certainly seems widely inclusive.

Voltaire is often quoted as saying “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Likely, he never actually said this, though it’s clear that the summed up his beliefs on freedom of thought and expression. But he was French. I wonder what the author(s) of the email would make of that.

1 Comment so far

  1. Deb Lander on September 22nd, 2008

    This is being written in response to an email making the rounds on the Internet about being a BAD American. The person who created this email claims that the fact that he rides a Harley, is against illegal immigration, owns a gun and is a veteran makes him a BAD American. All I can say is “get down off the cross honey, someone else needs the wood”-Dolly Parton.

    I too, am a bad American. I believe that I am intelligent enough to make decisions pertaining to my own body and that I don’t need some MALE lawmaker legislating my uterus. If I make the choice to terminate my pregnancy, I am the one who has to live with the consequences, no one else. I’ve never had an abortion, but wouldn’t force anyone to go to some back alley abortionist whose tools of the trade are a coat hanger and paper towels. NObody has the right to tell me what I can and cannot do and whether or not I should be able to use contraception or learn the facts of life.

    I come from a family of veterans, some who are still alive, some who are dead and some who died on the battlefield, some of whom were and are also Democrats AND liberal. I don’t hate the rich but believe they are not the ones who should be making decisions for the rest of us, nor should they be getting away with sending jobs and their own money off shore because they don’t think it’s safe enough on our own soil, in our own banks. I am also a bad American because not only did I NOT vote for Ronald Reagan, I believe he is in large part to blame for the problems we are having now, deregulation, his hatred of “Government” and his theory if the richest one percent of us were in power, then the prosperity would somehow “trickle down” to those of us less fortunate. I am also a bad American because I come from a union family, was previously a member of not one, but two unions and believe the middle class is the backbone of this country and should be preserved. Union busting and the shipping off shore of our jobs by employers who don’t want to pay a livable wage and provide health benefits for their employees is not a liberal or even a democratic idea. That was all shoved down our throats by Republicans. The GOP, the Grand Ole Party.

    My DEMOCRATIC family always owned guns, but what I don’t understand is why anyone needs to hunt with a semi-automatic. I don’t hunt, but many in my family do and have used that skill to supplement a piss-poor income after getting out of the service and not being able to find a decent paying job. My father gave up his education to serve in the US Navy. My mother stole her older sister’s ID so she could enlist in the Army. She was found out while in boot camp and given an honorable discharge. She received military honors a year after her actual funeral because I dogged everyone in power to get it done and Harry Reid made it happen. My uncle, who was shot up in WWII and has jumped at any small sound ever since just went on a flight to Washington DC to the WWII memorial. It was called the Honor Flight. They held a mail call during the flight where he and the others received letters we had all written ahead of time to him thanking him for his service to our country. My brother, my cousins, aunts and uncles many of them served our country honorable and sometimes fatally. Some are liberals, some are conservatives, but dammit, we’re all AMERICANS.

    The right is always trumpeting the evils of socialism, but what is the 700 million dollar bailout? What they don’t tell you is they want medicine that is for profit-if it pays, that’s a good thing. If it’s offered to all Americans its socialism. When the economy of this country is running fine it the free-market, but when it crashes, as it’s just done, we all pick up the tab. We are ALL socialists, now! But who are we bailing out? The RICH.

    I don’t begrudge anyone their opinion or belief. What I do resent is people who blather on about issues they have no knowledge of and have no intention of educating themselves about. Read, read, read! Look at non-partisan sites like http://www.factcheck.org, http://www.mediamatters.org, http://www.prwatch.org. Then if you still like what the Republicans are peddling, we have a difference of opinion, that’s all.

    I’m voting Democratic as I have all of my life. I am proud to say I voted for Bill Clinton and although he is guilty of getting a blowjob in the oval office, no one died on his watch in an unjust war. When the World Trade Center was attacked (the FIRST time), he prosecuted the offenders; he didn’t whisk the families of those responsible out of our country to safety afterwards. He left this country with a surplus, not a huge deficit like the one we currently share. I don’t agree with NAFTA and CAFTA, but overall, we were a safer, more prosperous nation under democratic leadership. We have gone from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation in the world! We OWE… everyone!

    Many Americans can’t get over the fact that Obama is black. I know my father would have had a problem with that as well as my in-laws. I don’t, however, believe he would vote McCain and to continue to flush our country down the toilet in spite. For those who simply cannot get past the fact that Obama is black, I say this: he’s half white, vote for that half. He’s also a Christian, has been his whole life, he’s not a Muslim and never has been. He’s not hiding behind the facade of a respectable, happily married, educated and a pull-yourself-up-by-your bootstraps American. He really is all those things. He’s what the American dream was designed to create. If you really and truly, in your heart of hearts believe that once Obama is sworn in and moves into the Whitehouse that he will drape his wife and daughters in burkas and start making truckbombs in the basement, I couldn’t possibly change your mind with any rational argument.

    I’ve been canvassing for Obama and have spoken to veterans who in the past have supported John McCain, but think the wheels have come off that wagon. I agree. I phone banked with a lifelong Republican turned Democrat. He was a business owner who had to get out of business because he couldn’t afford to pay health care premiums for his employees. He is a war veteran and was wounded. When he shipped home, he had to wait 4 years to get the spinal surgery he needed to be able to walk again. FOUR YEARS-how is that on any planet, in any universe the way to treat the brave men and women who pledged their lives for our freedom?

    I’m a Democrat, I’m a liberal and I’m damn proud of it.