All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
By Blaney Pridgen
Almost twenty years ago Lee Greenwood recorded a very popular song, “Proud to Be an American.” Some of you may remember that. I heard it not long ago and was unexpectedly moved as I am always moved by the young girl who sings the “Star Spangled Banner” late in the evening on Channel Twelve. And I always love “America the Beautiful” and “God Save Our Native Land”. But I am very skeptical of the overt nationalism of populist politics and the dangerous attitudes it breeds and the fires of prejudice it fans; nonetheless, I am patriotic and proud to be an American, just not in that peculiar way. When I heard Greenwood’s song, my heart ached for our native land and the sorry state in which we seem to be. Regardless of our opinions, I believe most of us feel that way.
Opinions and their expression in uncivil ways are a national problem. We have a right to our opinions. We can and should disagree in the ultimate working out of our opinions in a free and open democracy governed by law. This begins and ends with our Constitution and Bill of Rights, even with amendment and addition, if needs be as our founders had the good sense to allow. Of course, the rub comes with a thorough understanding of the words free, open, and law. Nobody ever claimed this would be easy. Democracy is hard work and requires both the vigilance to conserve and the courage to change. Inevitablycompromise is necessary and should not be a bad word. Anything less than this is uncivil, which is uncomfortably close to uncivilized and ultimately unamerican.
Forgetting the principles which unite us is a national problem. Ignoring these principles, even when we know them, is a worse problem. The worst problem is not knowing them at all and assuming that our opinions are our principles. Opinions are not our principles. We can have all kinds of opinions about hot button issues and special interests driving them and the politics surrounding them, but ultimately the rule of law, duly arrived upon and justly enforced, is a key principle. The checks and balances of the three branches of government (national, state, and local) is a principle which makes us a union with the common goals of a relatively free society. Free market enterprise with necessary safeguards and regulation is a principle. The Bill of Rights in specifics and the Declaration of Independence in general, are principles. Open elections, well governed and fair to all within the confines of the Constitution and the peaceable, civil transfer of power are principles. I could go on. We need to concentrate upon, continually study and debate these and many other principles and change or modify them as our democracy continues to evolve. We need to remain united in our principles, while pursuing our opinions in a civil manner.
I can sit down with any fellow citizen, liberal or conservative, agree with them or disagree, vote my conscience along side them, and work together to come up with something that mostly works for the majority and ensures the common good, even if the particular outcome isn’t exactly what I want or even believe. That is as long as they are civil, law-abiding, and patriotic lovers of the principles which unite us.
In conclusion, I might add this illustrative reflection: How do our principles address the filibuster, gerrymandering, campaign financing, executive privilege, and rampant extremism in the dark corners of both the left and the right? When I too sing “Proud to Be an American”, I pray that we will celebrate the humanism and reason at the foundations of our heritage and government and never forget that. What is right, what is practical, and what is possible and especially what is clearly for the common good of most if not all of us…of these we can be duly proud.