Un-American is whatever I say it is

OK… First – this is going to be my last post critical of conservatives for a while. There’s been a lot of crap going on that makes me angry and sad and I’ve had plenty to say about it. But at some point, It’s worth talking about some positive things instead of railing against negative things in ways that won’t ever make a difference. This post is just a touch different in tone… Instead of engaging the ugliest items in the current trends, I just want to say something low key about the words of an individual who gets close to “the line” sometimes but usually doesn’t cross over it.

Second, the individual is someone I read (or at least skim) multiple times daily but rarely mention. His perspective is orthogonal to my own, so to talk about him is to talk past him, while he’s busy talking past me. But I was interested in this post from Dan Riehl, and some curious thoughts in it…

To me, when I say someone is un-American, I mean their philosophy does not line up with my understanding of the concepts and principles that shaped the thinking of the Founders and have provided the basis for American life and political thought since our founding. [emphasis added - s]

So, that’s what it takes to be un-American. Seven words that just seem utterly and completely foreign (no pun intended) to me.

It isn’t just the brass one it takes to brand someone in those terms based on your personal understanding of things – in a way all evaluations have at least a subjective element to them… and the concepts and principles he is discussing are themselves external to his view of them (thankfully!). What really turns my head is such a low threshold for un-Americanism. His (Obama’s) philosophy doesn’t line up with Riehl’s understanding. It isn’t that he hates America and wants to subvert its very existence. It isn’t that his philosophy is contrary to the Founding Fathers – it isn’t that he is working to undermine the American Way – it isn’t that he betrays the principle values. It’s just that his philosophy “doesn’t line up”.

I would be loathe to say that Dick Cheney is “un-American”… but I would express the belief that some actions of his – or at least imputed to him – are “un-American” things to do. But never just because they don’t line up with what I think the Fathers had in mind. Because they actively undermined our values on the one hand, and our security on the other.

So, there’s that… I recognize that this is the internet where cooler heads are rarely even glimpsed, much less expected to prevail. But I find it disturbing that someone is willing to impute un-Americanism over what is likely a relatively mild difference in philosophy about what the Fathers thought.

His post, though, seems to lack perspective in a different way. On the one hand, he says this:

Government is not something that should have the power to rule and decide. The Founders knew, well better than most Americans today, it seems, the incredible danger in that.

But, he opened his post by pointing out that Barack Obama is our nation’s first un-American President.

That’s pretty tough to swallow. What about FDR? Didn’t he govern as though the Government did rule and decide things? At least if that description fits Obama, it must fit FDR at least as much. (Rabbit trail: Yes, I know the new debt, especially taking into account short term borrowing is at unprecedented levels. Guess what – it was when FDR was president, too. It was when GWB was president, too. Yes it is more now – that’s why they call it a “record”. It was more than it ever has been before under GWB, and now it’s more than that.)

But, it’s not just FDR. Truman and Ike built our interstate system – something that likely never would have come about through private enterprise… They “ruled and decided”. Lyndon Johnson revolutionized government “ruling and deciding” in just one term.

Why is Obama a first? (And, yeah – I know RW will have an answer… you always do. Smart, or smart ___ ;) … but the question is rhetorical. Every president is a first in some respects, some good and some bad. It’s just that “first un-American President” is a mighty big chunk to swallow).

I guess what I’m saying is that more people are going off the deep end – and more quickly… and with no more cause (and IMHO less cause)… than did it with Clinton or GWB. I guess it’s worrisome in the same way that the ever-increasing national debt is worrisome… It looks like a trend… We’re getting more polarized, more poisonous and more paranoid every time an office or house or branch changes hands. When will it end? More importantly, how will it end?

More later… that long ramble about the reasons for it all is coming soon, as promised… Or not, if I get in the doldrums and don’t want to write.

Edited to add: I don’t think the Founding Fathers read Ayn Rand, studied Milton Friedman, or had much in common with Grover Norquist. Their vision of America was surely extremely different from any reality it ever saw… but that goes without saying. “Small government” activism is all well & good… but let’s not flatter ourselves that the Founders were members of the Cato Institute.

5 comments to Un-American is whatever I say it is

  • Dan da Man

    The irony here is that even our Founding Fathers couldn’t always agree on many things that we take for granted today. For example, only 6 of them signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Patrick Henry was upset with our Constitution because he said it “smelled like a rat”. In other words, some of the “un-American” founding fathers thought that our Constitution was bringing back some of England’s policies which we had fought to free ourselves from (i.e. taxes, commerce regulations, standing army).

  • Touche… Of course Mdm Pelosi’s comment was quite a bit different – it was about a single type of action, not a person (and she’s right – this type of action is kind of un-American)… She’s wrong to use that kind of language against the actions of ordinary citizens who, in their own crude and wrongheaded way are trying to exercise their own free speech (unfortunately without having much regard for others’). So, while she was more accurate and her statement is in principle more defensible I will grant that her’s is the greater offense.

    Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

  • I get a kick out of the term “Un-American”. I don’t know what it means but I have been told on more than one occasion that I am “Un-American”

    And every time I was glad.

  • I always thought they were telling me that because I don’t watch NASCAR

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