Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Amending the 14th Amendment

I've been thinking about this post for awhile, but every time I write, it comes out wrong.  Now that revoking the 14th Amendment's birthright provision is apparently a mainstream Republican policy (ironic, considering that the Republican Party was responsible for its creation and ratification), I had to write something.

The birthright provision of the 14th Amendment is one of the hallmarks of America's post-Civil War policy.  It says that no matter your race, your color, your creed, or your gender, if you are born in the United States, you are an American and are entitled to the full rights are privileges therein.  This provision separates America from all other countries in the world, and carries with it the promise that the American Dream is open to all people.  It was a clean break from our racist and slave-owning past, and a statement for the future.

Many of those who attack the 14th Amendment hate the fact that its definition of American opens the door to everyone.  Contrary to the hysterical statements of Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and others, America is not a Christian country.  It is not a White country.  It is a country that is made stronger by the polyglot of peoples and religions and cultures that are within its borders.  That is the promise of the 14th Amendment, and that's why it must stay unscathed.

It is this promise that gives us an opportunity in the Middle East - a promise left unfulfilled by our own bigotry.  We can and should remind the Muslim World that an American can be Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu.  An American can follow his or her beliefs, guided only by his or her conscience.  We should remind the Muslim World that in America, what is or is not proper Islam is not defined by sheikhs and imans, but only by the internal belief of its practitioners.  Where bin Laden offers intolerance, we must offer freedom.

Instead, we fight amongst ourselves over what constitutes a "Real American."  But guess what, San Francisco is a real part of America, as is Northern Virginia.  There is no real America or fake America, there is simply America.  And yes, there are differences between Americans over pretty much everything.  But those differences are our greatest strength.  

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