America: Love it or leave it. How many times have you heard those words spoken or that thought expressed in other ways? If you have the opinions I have and you live in the kind of political climate in which I live, probably a lot. True story: I put up a profile on Classmates.com a while back, just to kind of drive some potential traffic to my writing, and I basically shared some of my opinions that I have shared here about the state of America, though in a much broader way. This guy that I hadn’t seen between my senior year and my 20th high school reunion and whom I haven’t seen since then writes to me basically sharing the sentiment that if I don’t like it here, why not just leave?
Usually this kind of thought is expressed by someone who otherwise presents no intellectual interest to you. But this is a guy I liked in high school, for the most part, and liked even more at my reunion. A dummy he’s not. So I was kind of surprised that he was expressing this viewpoint. Especially as what I wrote on the profile wasn’t nearly as incendiary as some of the things I’ve written here. But to give you an idea of what kind of political environment I live in here in Pensacola, we actually had a billboard that read “America: Love it or leave it ” written in big letters.
Putting aside for the moment that the definition of loving America means many different things to different people, let’s take a really close look at what people are saying when they express that view. To ask someone to leave America because they disagree with your politics is, of course, the deepest irony possible. After all, America was built entirely on the structure of being able to openly express disapproval of your government. Remember, the founders of America were citizens of England at the time and they went far beyond merely expressing disapproval. So anyone saying “America: Love it or leave it” is, in reality, expressing the single most un-American sentiment possible.
But let’s move in closer. To say that you should leave the country because you find a flaw in it is to say that the system is perfect. You disagree with that concept? Look at it this way. Most of the time someone tells you to love America or leave it, it is said in response to a criticism of the country. And since you are being advised to leave simply because you suggested that something may be wrong with America, that can only mean that the person who is saying it believes there is nothing wrong with America. Because if there was something wrong and that person said it, then you would have the right to tell them to leave. If everyone who had a problem with America was forced to leave, there would be nobody left. Therefore, any person telling you to do this must believe there is nothing wrong with America. That it is perfect. Flawless. And, of course, anyone who actually believes that should not be told to leave, but they should be committed.
Finally, by telling you to leave America because you suggest there is something not quite perfect about it, that person is also as much as saying that you shouldn’t try to fix something that remains broken, as long as it still basically works okay. Obviously, if America were being overrun with debilitating problems that threatened its very existence, and you pointed out a fixable problem, the average person would agree and suggest repairing it. But when things are basically going okay, when the problem isn’t quite terminal, little bugs in the system can be forgiven. In other words: “Yes, American isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough that you should be happy with what you’ve got. After all, it could be a lot worse.” That’s also what America: love it or leave it means.
But if you examine that theory closely you can extrapolate a frightening analogy. To suggest that because you are complaining about a minor irritation in an otherwise healthy entity is enough to warrant your expulsion from said entity for merely making the suggestion is analogous to telling someone who wants to run down to the store and buy medicine to treat your child’s poison ivy that they shouldn’t bother because, well, poison ivy isn’t terminal and he’s perfectly healthy otherwise. True, the child won’t die of poison ivy, but he’s still going to be in miserable pain, and who knows-maybe he will come down with an infection that turns serious. All I’m doing is pointing out that your child isn’t as healthy as he could be and all it would take to make him healthy again would be for me to get in my car and drive two blocks to the nearest drug store and buy some anti-itching cream.
All I’ve been doing is pointing out that America isn’t as healthy as it could be and all it would take is a little bit of effort to salve its current misery. And for that I’m told in a variety of ways that not only should I not bother, but I should leave.
So here’s my question: Would you leave the child in misery? Or would you drive down to the drug store anyway?