June 26, 2008

The Real Un-Americans

When you hear the term “un-American,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Most of you are not old enough to have lived through the McCarthy era, but like me, you may have read about it in history books. I suspect many of you hear the word as a political slur, one that often comes from the mouths of Republican politicians (and some in the Democratic Party too) when describing those who disagree with them. When I hear this word, one phrase goes through my mind every time, one which embodies the meaning of un-American: “Love it or leave it.”

“Love it or leave it” is as un-American as it gets. It is far worse than “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” another favorite expression of idiots, because it says loud and clear that criticism makes one unwelcome here. It never seems to occur to those who proclaim "love it or leave it" that they would have none of the benefits which they now enjoy if heroic Americans had not sharply criticized the nation we call home.

Since there is a natural resistance to change, reflected by the “if it ain’t broke…” sentiment, progress rarely occurs without someone identifying problems. “Love it or leave it” is a slap in the face to every American who has helped to facilitate progress through criticism.

What does it mean that social and political conservatism is positively correlated with one’s tendency to use this phrase? Does it mean that conservatism tends to oppose change? Of course, but this hardly comes as a surprise. Does it mean that conservatives actually want to roll back many of the positive gains critical Americans have brought us (e.g., Civil Rights)? Absolutely. But once again, this is not exactly news. No, the question begging to be asked is how these conservatives have managed to avoid being perceived as the enemies of America.

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