Anyone who knows me knows I’m one of those Americans who loves the flag, posting it not just on holidays. I’ll wear soccer jerseys bearing the U.S. emblem and T-shirts from patriotic races. I’ve written columns praising the “Star-Spangled Banner,” defending our national anthem long before Colin Kaepernick played a down in the NFL, when people were slamming it for its tune, preferring “America The Beautiful.”
And, yes, some of them were conservatives.
I love our story too. While I know our country and leaders aren’t perfect, those who constantly run down our country, or mangle our American Revolution’s history, grate on my nerves.
But there’s something more to being American. It’s also the way we treat others. It’s the political and economic freedom and the authentic kindness that good Christians should show, a hospitality and even a grudging respect for views we don’t always agree with, so long as they don’t call for leading hate-crime attacks on other Americans.
Remember this phrase? “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it to the death.”
When President Donald Trump told several U.S.-born citizens serving in Congress, and one immigrant-turned-U.S. citizen to “go back” to where they came from (and, yes, I read his tweets), it reminded me of another time a foreign-born member of Congress got on my nerves.
AOC? Rep. Omar? Rep. Tlaib? No, it was Texas Sen. Rafael (Ted) Cruz.
Cruz would try to filibuster to shut down the U.S. government, reading from Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs & Ham,” protesting our budget deficit when it was $425 billion in 2015 (according to the White House today, it’s up to a trillion and no Cruz filibuster in sight), ending net neutrality, claiming President Barack Obama wanted ISIS on Medicaid, saying chaplains should be insensitive to atheists (instead of reaching out to them) and criticizing every action of the U.S. government.
I had the chance to meet with Sen. Cruz, who was born in Canada and maintained his Canadian citizenship until recently, but I didn’t insult him to his face at that Newnan rally a few years ago although I didn’t approve of some of the policies of the candidate he was endorsing who supported shooting the police conducting no-knock warrants.
My conversation with Cruz was respectful. I even told him I agreed with some things he’d said. I could have ripped on him, told him to go back to his country. I understand the sentiment. But it’s wrong and most Americans know it. I did tell the Newnan police providing security outside I appreciated their service despite them having to protect someone they probably disagreed with as well. They knew exactly what I meant.
When we see Trump, he’s usually hugging an American flag. But that’s not always the case. Before the 2017 Super Bowl, he defended Vladimir Putin by throwing America under a bus. When Bill O’Reilly said of Putin, “But he’s a killer,” Trump replied, “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” Putin’s spokesman even demanded an apology from Fox News. Yet despite Trump’s comments, I still call him the president in every column and I’ll even agree with him on a few things.
It’s time we got back to being Americans, respecting each other’s differences and viewpoints, and not telling someone to “go back home.” That ain’t us, or U.S.