This year, I’m sending you a Valentine, not because I love you or respect you, but because I love my country. And you are the duly-elected symbol of that country. You may not know that I love my country, since I’m not in the pro-life movement, I don’t attend church, fear immigrants, or verbally wave the flag every chance I get. I’m not even Christian, which I suspect is becoming ground zero for patriotism. In fact, I pretty much don’t fit any of the recent descriptions used for those who love our country.
My love of country stems, instead, from deep, unwavering gratitude. Gratitude that my parents were allowed to emigrate here, and that this country made room for them. Gratitude that I was given a childhood that was dramatically different than theirs. Gratitude that my life choices were those of people who have enough food to eat, a home to live in, and a government that protects them and not hunts them down. I had only to decide which clothes to wear for school that day, which homework assignment should be done first, and which children’s shows I would look forward to seeing on TV over the weekend. These were decisions my parents never got to consider when they were growing up.
I also love my country because my experience growing up was that people of different religions living together was entirely normal. My friends were Jewish, Protestant, Catholic. We attended the same school, borrowed books from the same library, watched movies on Saturday morning at the same theater. My parents did not experience this. Because of their religion, they lived only where the government allowed them to live. Their lives were so insular that they never learned the languages of the countries in which they lived.
This is what I’d like you to understand, that, because of who I am and because of the circumstances of my family history, I love my country. You and I speak the same language, and we may use the same terms, but I may mean something a bit different than you when I do so. For example:
pro-life: My belief is that life is sacred, and that being pro-life means that we have an obligation to those, like my parents, who seek asylum within our borders. And we have an obligation to those who live here now, to be inclusive. Pro-life means not shutting them out, either economically, socially, or educationally. I do not believe that they are here to suck us dry or kill us. I believe they are, like my parents, here to have a chance at a better life.
“radical Islamic terrorism”: a favorite term of yours. You’ll be happy to know that I believe radical Islamic terrorism exists and that it is a threat to us and to the world. I also believe radical non-Islamic terrorism exists. It has resulted in Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, Dylann Roof and the Charleston Church shooting, Adam Lanza and the Newtown School shooting, Charles Roberts and the Amish school shooting, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and the Columbine High School massacre. The list goes on and on. Terrorism, no matter its motivation, is unacceptable.
“government-run education monopoly” Democracies depend on the educational system they provide their citizens. Corporations that are monopolies have consumers at their mercy, and may set prices to increase profit. They don’t have to consider the welfare of the people who use their products or services. Education, as a monopoly, ensures that common standards are upheld. They are beholden to the people who use their services. There is a big difference between a business and an educational system. People of means will always have the option of sending their children to private school, just as people of faith will always have the option of sending their children to faith-based school. And people will (and should) have the option of home-schooling or sending their children to charter schools. But none of these alternatives should impact in any way whatsoever on the public school system that the vast majority of Americans attend. Alternatives mean choice, not the standard.
“fake news”: I agree wholeheartedly that fake news exists. But, in this era of unlimited avenues in which people can gather information, it’s irresponsible to accept any news (no matter where it comes from) without checking sources. If you limit yourself solely to one source or one way of thinking, you become vulnerable to manipulation. And that is a very dangerous place to be. A free society is based on a free press. It is not up to any leader of this country to decide what people should read and/or listen to. It is up to us, the people,to do due diligence to weed through news sources, in order to make ourselves better-informed citizens.
I also have definitions that differ from yours, regarding what it would take to “make America great again” and “make the inner cities safe” and “keep our borders safe.” I will happily share them with you, if you’d like.
So, here’s your Valentine, POTUS, from a grateful-to-be-here patriot of this amazing country. I suspect that no matter what path you choose to lead this country down for the foreseeable future, I will make my opinion known. I will continue to exercise the right that was not given to my parents. And I will continue to love this country as much as anyone possibly can and to get chills whenever I say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem.