Last night I forgot one of my books and was stuck in a situation where I had nothing to read. I started reading the quotes in my passport and realized that almost everyone was propaganda and most were easily disproved. They are all part of, as George Carlin would say, “the national bullshit story.” I thought I would post the quotes and then follow up with why a response to each one:
The principle of free government adheres to the American soil. It is bedded in it, immovable as the mountains. – Daniel Webster
Ok, total bullshit. First of all soil cannot be bedded with principles of anything. Our soil, aside from possibly the particular chemical makeup of it, is no different than any soil. Also, democracy and free governments are never immovable. They are things which need vigilant citizens to maintain. Just look at the history of our voting rights. Look at the current NSA scandal or things Hoover’s FBI did or any of number of things to learn how free government and democracy are easily eroded.
We have a great dream. It started way back in 1776 and God grant that America will be true to her dream. – Martin Luther King
I am nitpicking with this one. Martin Luther King was obviously a great man. The quote itself is fine in a kind of whitwashed way. However in 1776 they did let slavery remain legal. Also, whether or not there is a God, it is again going to take actual people to make us stay true to the founder’s more noble ideas.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty. – John F. Kennedy
Again, I like John Kennedy fine, but this is simply untrue. If we look at the history of Guatemala or the Congo or many other examples, there are plenty of times that we let liberty be snuffed out.
This is a new nation, based on a continent, of boundless possibilities. – Theodore Roosevelt
This might have seemed more true in Roosevelt’s time. However, with our modern environmental problems we are seeing that even our vast continent is not boundless in its possibilities. Nothing physical is boundless.
Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come from the heart of America. – Dwight D. Eisenhower
This is a very vague statement. What exactly is the heart of America? Is it the people? If so there have been many times when presidents passed things by executive order without the outright consent of a large amount of people. Is it Washington? If that place always has a heart I’ll shit myself. Besides, the decisions they make there, look at Iraq, don’t always pass in the world as planned. Again a vague statement that is a bunch of meaningless feel good nonsense.
For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrowded desert and the unclaimed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest sleeping in the unplowed ground. Is our world gone? We say “Farewell.” Is a new world coming? We welcome it – and we will bend it to the hopes of man. – Lyndon B. Johnson
Again vague feel good nonsense, this time rooted in American exceptionalism. Johnson himself found the limits to our power in Vietnam. Case closed.
May God continue the unity of our country as the railroad unites the two great oceans of the world. – inscribed on the Golden Spike, Promontory Point, 1869
This refers to the transcontinental railroad. It should be noted that much of the work was done by Chinese laborers. Although it is disputed how many, varying wildly, many of these workers died.
We send thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are glad they are always here and hope it will always be so. – Excerpt from the Thanksgiving Address, Mohawk version
There is nothing wrong in and of the quote itself. However when you use it as a selling point for our country it helps to remember how we treated the Indians and how we have exploited animals. The Mohawks also fought against us in the Revolutionary War and The War of 1812. We also took their land. Also, look how we treated the buffalo, which we almost wiped out of existence during the western Indian wars. Look now at how we treat animals in factory farming. Again the statement is fine, but when you examine it closely as a selling point for America, it kind of makes you wonder.
The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of human kind, the very birthright of humanity – Anna Julia Cooper
This statement is another one that is fine in and of itself as an idea. However, it is false when used as a selling point for America. Also, first of all, you are not born with the right to anything. Rights have to be fought for and maintained by vigilant citizens. If we were born with rights we wouldn’t have needed the Civil War or the women’s suffrage movement. Also if one looks at gerrymandering today, you can still see that our freedoms, in terms of the right to truly govern ourselves as a true democracy, are still being eroded. We are also not free in a lot of ways. If I get caught with weed in Texas, a victimless crime that hurts no one, what freedom I do have will dissappear.
My point is not to be a killjoy or to say we should stamp out attempts at using language to aspire to greater things. It is just that we need to, as individuals, to think. Democracy and freedom are not birthrights, are not unique to America, and do not come from God. Only by being vigilant citizens, paying attention to what is going on, and by standing up for those that are oppressed, can we truly have a democracy that represents all. Also, total freedom is an illusion. To be free in a way in which we can all persue our own version of happiness, as long as we don’t hurt others, is still along ways off. There is much work to be done.