Pundits tell us that voters came out on November 4th to vote for ?values.? They sure didn?t vote for mine.
Pundits tell us that voters came out on November 4th to vote for “values.” They sure didn’t vote for mine.
Let me be quite explicit about my values, which are shared by millions of others—values that infuse the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, values that are absolutely central to what it means to be American.
- We believe in justice and civil liberties—in equal treatment and fair play for all citizens, whether or not we agree with them or like them or approve of their life choices.
- We believe that no one is above the law—and that includes those who run our government.
- We believe that dissent can be the highest form of patriotism. Those who care about America enough to speak out against policies they believe to be wrong or corrupt are not only exercising their rights as citizens, they are discharging their civic responsibilities.
- We believe that playing to the worst of our fears and prejudices, using “wedge issues” to marginalize gays, or blacks, or “east coast liberals” (a time-honored code word for Jews) in the pursuit of political advantage is un-American and immoral.
- We believe, as Garry Wills recently wrote, in “critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences.”
- We believe, to use the language of the nation’s Founders, in “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” (even European mankind).
- We believe in the true heartland of this country, where people struggle to provide for their families, dig deep into their pockets to help the less fortunate, and understand their religions to require goodwill and loving kindness.
- We believe that self-righteousness is the enemy of righteousness.
- We really do believe that the way you play the game is more important, in the end, than whether you win or lose. We really do believe that the ends don’t justify the means.
In our America, borrowing from our grandchildren so that we can pay for a costly war without taxing the President’s buddies and campaign contributors is not moral. Dividing the nation into red and blue, gay and straight, moral and immoral, welcome and unwelcome, is not moral. Excusing our own sins by pointing to the sins of others—torturing people, or engaging in “holy war” because “they” do it too, is not moral. Lying—about sex or Weapons of Mass Destruction or an opponent’s war record—is not moral.
On Election Day, claimants of the “values” label came to the precinct where my youngest son was working to “vote against the queers.” In my precinct, when I handed a Democratic slate to a voter, he accused me of being a “friend of Osama.” A friend’s son registering voters for Baron Hill in a church was called a “fag lover.”
The people who live in my America need to reclaim the vocabulary of patriotism and values from those who have hijacked the language in service of something very different.