True Americans understand the value of debate

I had an interesting experience today.  A friend was afraid that she might have missed my latest column in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier (for which I am a new Op-Ed columnist) and so she went to their website and did a “search.”  When an article came up, she read it and assumed that it was brand new.

She posted it on Facebook, I read it and was confused.  It read like something I could have just written; the subject matter was relevant to today’s political debate, but I didn’t have a clue who wrote it.  I saw my name at the bottom and then I noticed the date.  August 8, 2004.  I had been given a guest column in the Courier 8 years ago.

I am posting it here to allow my blog readers to draw their own conclusions about how the poltical debate has evolved….or how it hasn’t.  Bear in mind, the “president” that is refered to in this article is George W. Bush.

August 8, 2004

I love my country.  I’ve thanked God many times for the blessings I have received from her.  I fly the U.S flag on my front lawn, and I will defend the freedom it represents and argue in defense of our Constitution to the last person standing.

Recently, I have lent my support to a Democratic candidate for county supervisor, and I display his placard on my front lawn. The other day a passerby asked me how I could support a Democrat and still fly the flag. I was speechless for a moment, but then replied, “I don’t see why that would stand in contrast to the flag.”

He said, “The Democrats betray every thing that flag stands for.”

This was not the first time I’ve heard that ill-logic.

“In what way do you mean?” I asked, hoping to get a dialogue going.

He countered with his own question: “Do you support our president?”

Suddenly I realized that his misunderstanding of how democracy works was much deeper than anything I was going to unravel in a few minutes.

“How,” I asked, “does that have anything to do with supporting a Democrat running for county supervisor?”

“Liberals are communists,” he declared, and sped away.

Any rational-thinking person, whether a Democrat, Republican, conservative or liberal, should be appalled at that position. Even if that is a minority voice, it is far too prevalent and far too dangerous. I read letters to the editor every day, and it is not uncommon to read similar sentiments; that liberals and Democrats are immoral and that they “hate” America.

We have a democracy only because of our multi-party system. In fact, there is a very different name for the kind of government that has only one way of thinking (it rhymes with “tater chips”).

What secures democracy are the tenets of our Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech, freedom of thought, the freedom to disagree, our freedom to support any candidate and ideology without fear of retribution. A true American abhors censorship. A true American understands the value of debate. A true American can be liberal or conservative.

We cannot equate political, religious or ideological affiliations with degrees of patriotism. The movement that does so undermines the essence of what our Constitution stands for and for what American soldiers have died for.

I choose my candidates on an individual basis. Whether local or national I have voted issue to issue, man (or woman) to man. That is my right. It is that passerby’s right to disagree with me on any issue, and to express his right. It is, however, an incorrect and dangerous assumption to think that I, my candidate, Democrats or liberals in general are un-American because of how and with whom they stand.

In high school it was part of the required curriculum to take an American Government class. Most students I observed hated the class and didn’t pay attention. I thought nothing of that until now. Now I am frustrated as I see that many of those people who were apathetic to learning how democracy works and the real meaning of freedom are exercising their misconception.

I would like to remind some of the passionate “anti-liberals” that it was a radical challenge to the establishment in 1920 that led to the passage of the 19thAmendment giving women the right to vote. It was left-wing thinking in Kansas in 1953 that upheld the 14th Amendment by saying it was unfair that a little black girl had to take a bus for an hour and a half to attend an all-black school when there was a white school just down the street from her.

It was the Democrats who championed the civil rights legislation of the ’60s that we all, Republicans included, now consider part and parcel with America’s proud flag.

Those agendas were fought against tooth and nail by establishment bureaucrats who said it was “un-American” to change; that it was against the principles of patriotism and even Christianity to extend those freedoms. I thank God that there have been brave souls on both sides who have continued to fight when the misinformed have branded them traitors.

America is an incredible country, but it is only because of the polarity inherent in our system that democracy and freedom can remain secure, not in spite of it.

Actor Gary Kroeger, whose TV credits include “Saturday Night Live,” moved back to Cedar Falls last year to become the director of new media for the Mudd Group

Published by gary1164

I'm an advertising executive and former actor/producer