I was interested to read, recently, an opinion piece by Alexander Dolitsky on the dangers of “American Leftism” (American leftism—-Is America Losing Its Mind?) and felt that I could answer some of his concerns, despite not having a waterfront home, or having yet stepped up to volunteer at the local soup kitchen.
I am also not a member of the circular firing squad known as the Democratic Party, nor am I a Republican; like many in Alaska and across the country, I am a registered non-partisan voter, having grown tired over the years of the way that partisan rhetoric has served to side-step important issues while keeping a “government of the people” essentially deadlocked.
To add to the list of things I am not, I’ll include the amorphous non-organization known as antifa — though I sympathize with their goals of protesting the rise of fascism in America.
I am also not a member of Black Lives Matter, though I think they do. Police brutality is a real issue: Virtually every community in America has, unfortunately, direct experience with the excesses of modern policing, due largely to the erosion of our rights under the auspices of things like the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror,” and the grim reality of a labor pool drawn from the ranks of men and women who have served our country in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where enemy combatants often hid themselves among a civilian population.
I don’t think police are the enemy, however: Rather, I believe we owe it to ourselves, and them, to provide citizen oversight of both police and the military; to hold those brave enough to serve in these capacities accountable if they break the law, and to help bridge the divide that exists between the police and the communities they serve — not to mention providing adequate health care and counseling to those who have served.
I do consider myself a “liberal” however, and firmly believe there is room in the political discourse for those on the left. I believe in the importance of education, of telling our kids the truth of how we got here (the late James Loewen comes to mind); of the mistakes we’ve made as well as the triumphs. We are a diverse society, a nation of immigrants as well as Indigenous people, drawn from all over the world, and that diversity has given us, among many other things, our egalitarian form of government, our rights, and a rich cultural history, the roots of which span the globe and a panoply of different religions, creeds, and cultures.
Our national motto, originally “E Pluribus Unum,” means Out of Many, One — that and the First Amendment to the Constitution means that no one faith or creed or ethnicity has the right to call themselves exclusively American—-and as Americans we are all, or should be, equal in the eyes of the law; rich and poor, presidents, pastors, soldiers, police, people of every creed and faith, and very many of no religion at all.
Somewhere along the way, fairly recently, that motto got changed to “In God We Trust,” right around the time the phrase “under God,” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance.
Should we be tolerant of those who want to redefine America as a “Christian nation”? Sure — it’s a free country, and they’re free to exercise their patriotism and their faith in whatever way they want, short of harming or abridging the rights of others. Should we allow that view to be written into law, defining each American as a “Christian”? Absolutely not— that’s not what America is about, and it’s not what Christianity should be about either.
Personally, I think our motto should be, “Liberty and Justice for All.” It sums up not only our founding principles, but the ideals of those who have fought to make them real over the last 250 years.
Both sides in our artificially partisan political atmosphere would do well to remember that.
• Jamison Paul is a concerned Juneau parent, non-partisan voter, and resident of Alaska for the last thirty years.