I started writing a comment on Jack's blog, but then had a few more ideas, so I thought it would be better to create a new Blog entry, looking at things from the opposite direction.
So first of all, thanks to Jack for the idea.
Being a good American can be definied in some many ways that it is very difficult to describe. Being an American means that you are free to do almost anything you want, providing that it does not:
- Impinge on anyone else's freedoms,
- Harm other people, or,
- Engage in an activity that, if lots and lots of people did the same thing, would be harmful to society.
(That last point is MY definition of why we have certain laws, such as "don't do drugs.") (Yes, I know that's not the official name of the law!)
So, back to the "good American" thing, there are infinite things you CAN do that would fall outside the bounds of those 3 things. Basically, live life the way you see fit, within some sort of boundries. Anyone who does that is a "good American" in my book.
And that encompasses MOST People in America, so to me it is much more helpful to define what is a "bad American". There is a very small percentage of the population who are "bad Americans", but unfortunately bad Americans are the most interesting, simply because they are bad. As a result those people get the most attention from the news media, Hollywood, and others, so it SEEMS like there are a lot of them out there. But there isn't.
So what does it take to be a bad American? Here's my list.
- You discriminate against someone for something that they ARE, rather than something they DO. Among other things, that includes race, religion, age, gender, appearance, and abilities.
- You generally take more than you give. This is not just about money, although it would certainly include that. It's about giving to your family, giving to friends, and giving to your community. It's about giving time, ideas, prayers, and effort. It's about showing you care by making sacrifices. People by their nature do need to get from others also, but on the balance a good American will end up being a very giving person, because there are infinite ways to give, and only one way to get.
- You generally spend more time spreading the negative than the positive. This is completely different than "being a negative person". People can go around being as negative as they wish. That comes under "live life the way you wish." This point is the active spreading of negativity, in any form. That can include crime, ridicule, criticism, mockery, and more. One can commit crime, ridicule others, criticize, mock, and do a thousand other negative things without being a "bad American". But when their life, on balance, does those things primarily, and they do those things to others or to society, they are "bad Americans".
I think that about sums it up.
So how does this apply to current events?
There are people out there protesting the war, protesting Bush, protesting Republicans, etc. Lots of time I hear the phrase, "Just because I hate Bush and hate the war, I am NOT a bad American!!"
Every time I hear that it sounds very defensive, as if they feel they need to justify themselves, but that's really beside the point.
The point is that they are essentially correct, with a caveat.
There are people who honestly feel a great disdain for warfare in any form, and would prefer any route over violence. I may disagree with such people, but as "good Americans" they have every right to feel the way they do, and they have the right to express themselves in whatever way they wish. (With the exception of doing so in a way that hurts or takes away the freedoms of others.)
However, there are other people for whom the war is a good excuse to continue spreading hatred of our form of government, or hatred of our laws, or hatred of the people who live here. Such people are most certainly "bad Americans."
As I mentioned above, the vast majority of people are "good Americans", but unfortunately the "bad" ones get the most attention.