July 26, 2005

Dissent is Patriotic

Last week, there was some conversation amongst my church family regarding President Bush’s nomination of John Roberts to become the next Supreme Court Justice.

In a left-leaning church like ours, it was no surprise when one member asked everyone to sign a petition opposing Judge Robert’ nomination and calling on Congress to not confirm him.

Another member responded by wondering what was the point, asking if there was any realistic expectation that Bush would nominate anyone but a conservative. This was a valid point but one that troubled me nonetheless.

One of the more effective tactics the Bush administration and its right-wing supporters have used to deflect criticism of their policies is to call any public opposition “unpatriotic” and hiding behind the veil of “threatening national security.”

On the contrary, nothing is MORE patriotic than dissent.

Conservatives like to talk about returning out nation to its core values but, as so often happens, they pick and choose what values they want to emphasize. Even the most cursory review of American history serves as a reminder that this country was founded because of the dissent of the original colonists. They spoke out against taxation without representation and, when words failed, they took action.

That, my friends, is a core value of the United States of America that the right wing is gradually trying to erase, and with much success. It’s not all about the conservatives, however. When is the last time you saw any debate on one of the national news programs that didn’t deteriorate into a shouting match? Nobody listens anymore! Advocates on the right and the left seem to only focus on making their points and listen to opposing views only to have points they can loudly object to and, at time, ridicule. If someone can’t argue down the message, the next step is to often attack the messenger. This is something the right wing and the Bush administration have down to a science and clearly helped them keep power in 2004. Their opponents don’t have a strong leader and a clearly focused message with which to overcome this tactic.

I don’t want this forum to become heavily political, but sometimes there is no avoiding it. The Pastor of our church has often said that he abhors hearing politics preached from the pulpit. He reluctantly faces reality, however, when he points out that if we don’t stand up for what we believe, open and affirming churches like ours and many of the people who worship in them will get shoved right back into the closet.

From my vantage point, the right wing is controlling the debate, often by limiting it, because they are more focused on issues and they have the loudest voices. Who can moderates and liberals claim as their answer to Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, or most of the Fox News Network?

The right wing has the advantage in today’s microwave society because they present their views as facts, and many people are just too lazy or busy with other things to consider anything different. This type of person is all too happy to have someone tell them what to think and follow along like sheep. THERE is the primary target audience that needs to be reached to reintroduce love as a core value of this once-great nation. THERE are the people who, if they make even a slight effort to open their minds and hearts, can cause a groundswell against those that spew hate and condemnation in God’s name.

I signed that petition. I encourage everyone that reads this to explore areas where they can make their voice heard. If we wait for someone else to step up, the opportunity may be lost forever.