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Saturday, January 7, 2017

What we have here is a failure to communicate

Even though Tom and Joe both use the same set of words, what they each mean by what they say is so colored by preconceptions, misconceptions and simple inattention that more often than not, what they are saying to each other is heard by the other as something completely different. Tom says, "I love America!" Joe also says, "I love America!" What are they really telling each other?

When Tom says that he loves America he means that he learned America's history and its heritage at the feet of his father, a patriot who willingly joined the Army during the Vietnam war. Tom's father joined the Army knowing that he might soon have to go overseas to an enemy land, and in the process of eventual battles might even be compelled to sacrifice himself if need be, leaving behind forever all the scores of forsaken family and friends he'd ever known, and the scores more he never would, and also leaving behind his own young son, Tom.

Tom's father made his decision to join during the Vietnam war without even really understanding why there was a war. He didn't need to know why there was a war because he trusted America's leaders to be the kind of patriots that he was. Tom's father trusted America to have patriot leaders who truly love what America is, what it represents, and what we all hope it eventually will become.

Tom was taught by his patriot father that at its essence, America is Freedom. It's the freedom to say what you think, the freedom to try and succeed as well as to try and fail. It's the freedom to compete. America is the freedom to be a winner and a loser. America is safety from powerful men with money and guns who would seek to subjugate, confiscate, eliminate, and finely extirpate the very freedom that Tom and his father so rely upon. Tom and his father know that these petty tyrants—these enemies of freedom—really do exist, but they also know that America with its 2nd Amendment guarantees the freedom to own weapons and to be armed in order to protect ourselves and every other American from the evil desires of these tyrants and would-be kings.

Joe also says he loves America. What he doesn't bother to mention, is that he also loves every other country on Earth. Joe knows that every culture and its attendant societies are special in their unique way and each deserve to exist uncontaminated by the provincial thinking and unnecessary protections inscribed within ancient documents like America's Constitution. In the same way that Joe loves an America where all women have the freedom to wear a bikini and attend a University, Joe also loves the completely different sort of freedom found in Saudi Arabia, where women are free to wear a hijab and burqa while staying safely at home, protected from the lustful stares of strange men.

Joe understands one thing more clearly than all the less enlightened hicks and bigots who he so despises. He understands that America is nothing special. It's merely one of many equally valid cultures. Joe believes that going to war to protect one aggressor from another more powerful aggressor is the very definition of arrogance. Who are we to decide who governs whom?

Joe was only taught one thing by his father, never count on your father. Joe was taught by his mother that if you fill out the correct forms and wait long enough in the proper lines, America will eventually give you a place to live and food to eat. What's not to love about that?

Both Joe and Tom love America. Tom loves it for what it is and for what its people can accomplish, and he truly admires its historical heroes, men like George Washington, Patrick Henry, Nathan Hale, Abraham Lincoln, to name just the barest fraction of American heroes waiting their deserved turn to be mentioned. Even though Joe hates America as it is, he loves the idea of the America as he thinks it should be. Joe despises America's income inequality and its constant meddling in foreign affairs. He never tires of pointing out the manifest character flaws he believes are to be found in every single American hero—with the one exception of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of course—who were variously: racists, misogynists, homophobes, transphobes, bigots, and bitter clingers. Most importantly, Joe loves America mainly because of what it does for him every month. He Love-love-loves his EBT-card, section 8 housing, and his ever growing collection of Obama-phones.

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