What Does Anti-American Mean?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: So you believe that Barack Obama may have anti-American views?

BACHMANN: Absolutely. I’m very concerned he may have anti-American views. Also, in her Hardball appearance, Bachmann said, “The news media should do a penetrating exposé” into the “views of the people in Congress and find out if they’re pro-America or anti-America.”

I’ve often felt, in a glib moment, that Bush and Cheney are "anti-American" because their policies have been so hurtful to this nation. But the more I consider it, the more I know it’s not true. They’re Americans and we all must--if we are to have a nation that doesn’t descend into fear and hate--assume first that they love their nation. They may be bad actors, their behavior may be destructive, but that doesn’t make them anti-American.

We are not a pro- or anti-American nation. Other than a few nut cases, we all love our country, our families, our friends, and our communities. What we are dealing with here are different visions of America. Some are inclusive; some are exclusive. Malcolm X has a different view of America than Pat Buchanan; both want and love this country. William Ayers loved this country; it’s why he did what he did – to improve it. Bush loves America, but he sees it as a country of wealth and privilege. McCain loves this country and Ralph Nader loves this country. Al Gore loves this country, as did Tim McVeigh.

In 1999, I was invited to spend a week with His Holiness The Dalai Lama at his home in Dharamsala, India. There was a group of us who thought we could persuade him to support an embargo against the Chinese to free Tibet and help end the suffering. The Dalai Lama asked, “Will one Chinese child die of starvation as a result of this embargo?” We all nodded yes, “Sometimes that’s the price for freedom.” He then said “If one Chinese child dies of starvation – it’s to high a price to pay, even for the freedom of his people.” At that moment, I realized that for most of my life I’d drawn a metaphorical circle in the sand around myself, my friends and family, and “we” were in “here” and “they” were out “there.” But the Dalai Lama had taken out his little whisk broom and brushed away that metaphorical line, showing us that it’s not us and them – it’s all “us.”

Dale Carnegie in his "How to win friends and influence people" talks about Two Gun Crowley, a notorious criminal back in the 30s and he lay dying, this guy, a bank robber, a famous bank robber, and mobster. He says, "All I ever wanted to do was help people". You know, every behavior has a positive intent behind it, no matter how functional or dysfunctional it may be or may not be.

In his farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”

As much as I despise the behaviors of the Bush administration, I still believe that the vast majority of people in that administration are not anti-American. They had a vision for this nation which, although it didn’t work out, they thought it would. None of them envisioned this horrific scenario, just as the Libertarians and conservative Republicans never believed their behaviors would lead to the current economic crisis.

“Anti-American” is a slur that should be reserved for those who truly are. That includes none of the current crop of politicians, even Sarah Palin (although we can question her husband’s membership in the Alaska Independence Party and Joe Vogler, Founder of the Alaskan Independence Party.)

It’s all just “us.”

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