We hear these words from time to time, "America: love it or leave it." It sure makes for a rousing, heart-thumping cliche, but what does it really mean to tell someone that? Would the founding fathers, who enshrined the right to free speech in the U.S. Constitution making it the FIRST amendment,* ever say such words to their contemporaries who dissented from them in word and in policy?
Please consider the following:
People can love America and have different views from those telling others to leave. There are no gatekeepers when it comes to love for country. Merriam-Webster contacted none of these folks, touting this cliche, to contribute an official definition to love for America.
Love means caring, and caring can mean that one is not always happy with what or with whom they love. I love my family. The fact that I am not always happy with one of them, does not mean I do not love them. Indeed, my concern, my love at that particular point is expressed in dissatisfaction.
Love for America is not defined by specific political loyalties or certain policy positions. For those of you who think otherwise, it's not. Get over it. People can equally love America and be at the opposite ends of the political spectrum.
The founding fathers enshrined free speech to protect it because it was essential to the democratic process. When someone tells a dissenter "love it or leave it," they are being very undemocratic."
The United States was born out of dissent. Remember the Declaration of Independence? Dissent is in the American DNA. Love it or leave is not the position of George Washington, but of King George.
To say love it or leave it is the tactic of lovers of demagoguery, not lovers of democracy. As a Citizen of the United States I will not heed such a dystopian trope. I want the America I live in to be a better place-- a more compassionate and just place. That means I will express my dissatisfaction because dissent is at the heart of the democratic process; and I will not keep quiet. And since I am a contrarian, if you say to me "love it or leave it" I am going to stick around just to irritate you, and believe me, I can be a big irritant when I want to be.
So, by all means, let's have the debate, let's have the dissent, let's argue the policies, let's argue over who has the better vision for America; but, let's stop this nonsense of loving or leaving. That's not at issue in our political discourse. I dare say that lack of love for America is not revealed in dissent, but rather displayed in apathy. People who don't care about America are not going to waste the time and energy arguing over the matters most important to us.
*The First Amendment reads: "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."
Special Note: The photo above is a real church sign. Not only do I find the name of the church incredible ironic (no doubt lost on the pastor there), but the sign is nothing less than an idolatrous image in violation of the Second Commandment-- "Do not make idols or images in the form of God. An idol can be anything (or anyone) you worship by making it more important than God. If something (or someone) has your time, attention and affections, it has your worship. It could be an idol in your life. Don't let anything take the place of God in your life."
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