Monday, May 07, 2007

Top 5 Myths About America

I stumbled across this piece of writing, and I thought it worthy of drawing to your attention. While I would rephrase a few things, these are important points to be rescued from the Right Wing Noise Machine . . .

MYTH 1: The US was founded on Christian principles.
MYTH 2: US Conservatives tend to be patriotic, ethical Americans; liberals tend to hate America and are immoral.
MYTH 3. The US has a liberal media.
MYTH 4. The US doesn’t need improvement compared to other countries; it is the greatest country in the world.
MYTH 5: The US government loves to help other countries.

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Anonymous travelingal said...

"For you self-congratulatory, redneck-inspired conservative fuckwads who will start to say, "B-b-b-but you're anti-American! M-m-m-moonbat! G-g-g-god bless the USA!" I answer, "Go fuck yourself. We can do better."

Dan, your eloquent author, quoted above, reminds me of why I'm a conservative.

5/07/2007 7:49 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Hah - yeah, Travelingal, I hear your point - it's not something I would have written, but I thought some of the points were valid.

I'd hate to think that you're a conservative because some liberals are profane, though. Would it help clear your thinking if I presented examples of profanity from the right? I could start with the picture of Bush flipping the bird, and work my way down to anonymous commenters on blogs . . .

5/07/2007 7:58 AM  
Anonymous Keith Sader said...

Liberal: America can do better.
Conservative: Why do you hate your country?

Lather, rinse, repeat.

5/07/2007 8:25 AM  
Blogger les said...

Shorter travelingal: yeah, we're wrong on facts and policies, but liberals are uncivil. And isn't that what really matters?

5/07/2007 9:37 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

I would suggest the best argument to bash Myth #1 is the absence of mention of Christ in any government document.

The thing that makes Christians Christian is the presence of Christ. And not some nebulous implied presence - Christians profess their faith is Jesus Christ verbally and in writing.

Anything "Christian" pretty much demands the explicit recognition of Jesus.

And it just so happens that the only religious mention of anything within any government document is a universalist God. I believe there are quite a few state constitutions that mention God, A Maker, a Our Creator or Great One. The U.S. Constitution doesn't mention God, and The Declaration mentions it once I think.

Christ is significantly absent from any document establishing U.S. federal or state government.

People can argue all they want about Judeo-Christian values forming the basis of our government, which may be partially correct - but it ain't Christian unless there's a Jesus mentioned somewhere.

5/07/2007 4:50 PM  
Anonymous RhymesWithRight said...

Problem's abound with your link's analysis.

1) The definitive text of the Treaty of Tripoli does not contain the line cited -- which, in any event, would only state the undeniable position that the US is not a theocracy, not that broad, general Christian/Judeo-Christan principles are not at the foundation of American law and culture. Furthermore, a historical analysis will show that the First Amendment was designed to protect state established churches from the establishment of a national established church, not exclude religious principles from American life and government.

2) Actually, most conservatives tend to be more patriotic (in the sense of being nationalistic), while most liberals tend to be more internationalist. Similarly, most conservatives tend to accept an absolute morality, while most liberals tend to have a much more flexible, relativistic view of morality.

3) While conservatives do tend to dominate the talk radio airwaves, most of the print and broadcast media does tend to be more liberal -- as indicated by the political attitudes of reporters documented over and over.

4) I'll agree here -- the US needs improvement, as does every country. But we are still, overall, head and shoulders above the rest of the world in terms of individual liberty and economic freedom.

5) And that paltry .1% does more to improve the human condition around the world than all those other nations' contributions combined -- and does not include the fact that the US spent many times more protecting freedom around the world via its military budget, freeing up the resources of those other nations.

5/07/2007 7:39 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

1. Yes it does.

2. Patriotism is not nationalism.

3. The majority of print journalists are neither liberal nor conservative - reread the section. Actually, they live for controversy - you'll see a lot of anti-administration bias when Edwards is president. Controversy sells papers.

4. Wrong - read up on Hong Kong. But, actually, our wisdom exists in a refusal to accept pure personal or economic freedom. Most countries consider themselves the
greatest - all of them are wrong.

5. Wow. By your standard, Bush's immoral war is the greatest humanitarian gesture in the history of mankind. Abu Ghraib is like Santa's workshop.

5/07/2007 8:03 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

What I love about you Dan is how you lead by example. The last post says not to be afraid of controversy, and you follow it up with a warning shot across the bow.

I love the idea that to be patriotic I only need wave the flag and chant "USA! USA!" It's a lot harder to actually consider the ideas that make our country such a great place, and call our practice of those ideas into question when necessary.

On the other hand, the complexity of real world situations can be difficult to symbolize in something Calvin can piss on.

5/07/2007 10:12 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...


So, you're saying the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution was designed to protect State-established churches from a federally-established Church.

I wasn't aware of that. Can you explain the existence of State established churches in the U.S.?

I'm not sure I get that point.

5/08/2007 7:51 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

Dan, the blog you referred to was nothing more than a rant with very few references to back it up. A high school student could have done better and judging from the profile of the author, (from Montreal? - why doesn't he write about his own country's failings)he's not exactly some renowned expert.

As for the comment you made about why I'm a conservative, I think whether you're a conservative or a liberal, being called a fuckwad tends to turn off your audience. Why should I waste my time in debate. Note several of his own commentors agree with me.

5/08/2007 8:04 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

I found it fairly insightful and informative - I didn't know about the Tripoli Treaty, for instance. But I agree with you that, if he was aiming to persuade conservatives, he could have toned down the language.

5/08/2007 8:11 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

In the long term, we're all fuckwads.

I think there are very different types of conservatives and liberals.

I've had a hard time finding an objective discussion of what it means to be conservative or liberal, this link isn't that good, but a start

As for conservatives, I think there are at least three important components to the conservative movement, and to oversimplify, there are

(1) governmental
(2) fiscal
(3) social

However, and I think it is a key point - you can take a classically liberal definition and combine it with (1) and (2) above. They are very compatible.

And what results is a moderate, and pretty much representative of moderate/mainstream American political beliefs.

It also represents what Bill Clinton was trying to accomplish in office (other than getting laid *nod to travelingual and RWR*)

Don't you think the notion that liberal and conservatives are incompatible only exists at the extremes?

5/08/2007 8:54 AM  
Blogger les said...

"Actually, most conservatives tend to be more patriotic (in the sense of being nationalistic), while most liberals tend to be more internationalist."

Conservatives keep using that word (patriotic); I do not think it means what they think it means.

Nationalism, chauvinism, love it or leave, country right or wrong, disagreement with the ruler=sedition; none of these are patriotism, and the latter is flat unAmerican. The common denominator? Fear, and the need for the strong man to take charge and control the bad people.

5/08/2007 9:41 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

Dan, since you expressed in the Treaty of Tripoli, you might also be interested to note that there is considerable controversy about the meaning of the phrases and the translation of the document. Here is a reference.

I am not saying that this country was founded on Christianity, but it could be argued that it was founded on Christian principles. Nonetheless, the population of the US has always been overwhelmingly Christian.

Even though I am a Christian, I am quite happy that we are not a theocracy as in the Muslim countries. What sane thinking American isn't.

Mainstream makes some interesting points and I'd agree the extremes are the problem when it comes to reaching across the great divide of fuckwads.

And, have a great day.

5/08/2007 10:20 AM  
Blogger les said...

travelingal, I think you could argue much more convincingly that this country was founded on progressive, even (gasp) liberal principles. The philosophies driving the French and American revolutions were in no sense Christian--unless you have some kind of Christianity without god, hell and authoritarianism--but were avowedly secular; not antireligion, generally, but determinedly a-religious as far as the government went. Despite the historic revisionists, the Founding Fathers were not Christian in any sense that the current dominionists, nor most mainstream Christians, would recognize or agree with. The fundamentals of the U.S. revolution--the truly radical notions--that the legitimacy of government flows form the governed, not top down; equality before the law; intra-governmental checks and balances; habeas corpus--owed little if anything to the religious structure of the day, and don't match up with the way any mainstream religion governs itself. Witness the speed with which the most avowedly Christian administration in our history has abandoned those principals at the first sign of stress.

5/08/2007 12:03 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

One of the points made by the person Dan referenced in his post is historically accurate - the concept of God and religion was very much intentioned to be Universalist - or, more to the point, that humans, being created by a Larger Force, recognize a set of values and morals that are universal to human existence, ultimately driven by a divine creator.

Given the times, I would guess that the Framer's intention was a Universalist approach spanning denominations of protestants, Episcopalian, Quaker, Unitarian, Deist, Atheistic and Agnostic interests, because that was pretty much their world.

I don't think it would be a leap of faith, pardon the pun, to conclude it practically applied to all faiths.....

Can anybody sanely challenge the anti-establishment and "freedom from" aspects of the First Amendment?

5/08/2007 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Rhymes With Right said...

mainstream -- most folks are not aware of it, but several of the original states had established religions at the time of the adoption of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as the terms of the First Amendment were not binding upon the states. Connecticutt is a particularly good example of this.

5/08/2007 6:53 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Ok, RWR, one additional question - I think, then, you're saying that the framers of the U.S. were actually supporting states rights, and implicitly, the right for individual states to establish/endorse a specific religion?

5/09/2007 3:15 PM  
Blogger les said...

"the terms of the First Amendment were not binding upon the states."

Gee, if it were only 140 years ago that would even be relevant. Not relevant, of course, to the notion that the Founding Fathers intended a Christian nation; but relevant to...well, something, I'm sure.

5/09/2007 4:33 PM  
Anonymous maimstream said...

Les! Shhhhhhhhhhh.

I'm trying to flush out the reasoning of a strange point of view without getting confrontational. We've located a right-wing extremist on this blog -(they don't frequent moderate-liberal blogs much) and I don't want to scare this one away.

I don't know about you, but I'm curious (from an observational, scientific perspective)to find out more about what type of magical thinking is involved with his statement.

I mean, really, what type of thinking supports the notion that the First Amendment protects state-establshed religions?

5/09/2007 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Rhymes With Right said...

Yes, mainstream, I am saying exactly that -- based upon the actual practice at the time of the writing and adoption of the Constitution, and the fact that the guarantees of the Bill of Rights were not upheld against the states until after the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment (and actually, not even for decades after that). Hence the inclusion of that telling little phrase "CONGRESS shall make no law" at the beginning of the First Amendment -- the thing was meant to limit federal power, not state power. Actually, that is true of most of the rest of the Constitution as well, as the jurisprudence of the first century of the American Republic would show you.

And as for your demeaning little insult -- I've got a Masters Degree in political science and 10 years of college level teaching experience in a secular institution. I actually do know what i am talking about. A pity the same cannot be said of you and Les.

5/09/2007 9:58 PM  
Blogger les said...

While I suppose I should be grateful for RWR's gracious pity (arising out of complete ignorance of my education, knowledge or status) and defer to his superior knowledge and position (informed apparently by political bent and wishful thinking), I choose not. I will assume his eminence is aware that state religions in the U.S. were largely disestablished by 1800, as the states enacted their own constitutions and abandoned the structures set up when they were English colonies. I will again point out that the founder's position on states' rights, and the political necessities of securing states' approval of the Constitution establishing the federal government, remain irrelevant to the argument that the founders intended the U.S. to be a "Christian Nation." Neither does it support the assertion that "broad, general Christian/Judeo-Christan principles" are the foundation of American law and culture. I'll return the favor: I pity your ignorance of the history of British common law and the principles and philosophies underlying the French and American revolutions.

5/10/2007 10:17 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...


You know, there are a lot of people with higher and more degrees than you, and that are probably a lot smarter, that will construe history to suit their own ideological beliefs.

If you're going to try and convince us that we're a Christian nation, because at some point in the past there was some association between a government and a religious denomination, it isn't going to fly.

You're trying to rewrite history - which is characteristic of right-wing extremists.

Let me tell you the facts, RWR:

- religion, and Christianity, played a strong role in the lives of many Americans prior, during, and after the writing of the consitution and the various state consitutional models.

- the explicit intention of the vast majority of those who wrote the U.S. Consitution and the initial State constituions was to put a country mile between organized religion and government.

- And THAT'S the reason why we never see Christ mentioned in any government document, and at best, a universalist-concept of God mentioned.

What floors me is that you spend so much time trying to rewrite history.

5/10/2007 10:51 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

Can't leave with one final comment .. to Dan.

Edwards will never be the President of the United States. The blacks, to whom he spends 90% of his time pandering, have their own black candidate and those who don't follow Obama will support Hillary.

The rest of the country is not happy with Edward's $400 haircut and 28K sq ft house - except for the Kos Kids who love him, but even they don't like a loser and will support Obama in the end.

If a democrat must be President, please let it be Hillary.

5/10/2007 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and one FINAL FINAL last thing.

If you really want to win, nominate Al Gore. The dems don't see him as a loser because they believe the election was stolen from him so everybody will be happy if he runs again. I think he could beat any of them.

I'm still hoping for Hillary.

5/10/2007 1:25 PM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

Well, I lied. That FINAL FINAL comment was from me, Travelingal. Forgot to plug in my name and thought I should clarify.

5/10/2007 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Rhymes With Right said...

Funny, I never said that the United States was founded as a "Christian Nation". Indeed, what I said was that at the foundation of American law and culture one finds a broad, general Judeo-Christian outlook. Indeed, even the English common law system includes that among its roots. I also pointed out that the purpose of the First Amendment was not to exclude religious individuals or principles from the policy-making process, but rather to prevent the federal government from interfering with religious establishments (and, i will agree, religious freedoms) found in state laws and constitutions.

Oddly enough, mainstream, I'm willing to agree with about half of your points -- except that I would point out that some of the state government documents do include religious tests.

5/10/2007 7:10 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

RWR - That was a very fair and very important clarrification - clearly one of the intentions of our framers was ensure religion could be practiced freely.

I'm curious about the religious tests - would you mind naming a state? I don't want to ask you to post the actual language. It's not necessarily surprising - but news to me....

5/11/2007 9:55 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Huh. I post an inflammatory, profane, one-sided rant, and it evolves into a legitimate exchange of views and information. Whodathunk?

Clearly, I have some of the best commenters in the world . . .

5/11/2007 10:22 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

And, Travelingal, I think you're wrong about Edwards. The haircut thing is just the sort of crap that the press does to every democratic candidate, but I think in this time of a bungled war, the american people will look past the diversionary nonsense and vote for a person they think can run the country with competence. Now, whether that will be Edwards or some other democrat, I can't be sure, but I think Edwards is the best candidate right now.

5/11/2007 10:27 AM  
Anonymous Rhymes With Right said...

You might consider this article here.

State governmental oaths or test requirements reflected the existing values of the people.

Delaware 1776: "I do profess faith in the God, the Father, and in J C His only son….

New Jersey 1776: "all persons, professing, a belief in the faith of any Protestant sect… shall be capable of being elected into any office…."

Maryland 1776: "That no other test or qualification ought to be required… than such oath of support and fidelity to this State.. and a declaration of a belief in the Christian religion."

South Carolina 1778: "…no person shall be eligible to a seat in the said legislature unless he be of the Protestant religion.."

Massachusetts 1780: "I declare, that I believe the Christian religion and have firm persuasion of its truth…"

With the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, legal discrimination against Christians became a matter of history. But for Jews the inherent discrimination of the religious test oath was to remain a struggle for another 81 years. In one state, North Carolina, the Christian test oath would not be changed until 1868.

5/11/2007 6:25 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Thanks RWR - very interesting stuff. I appreciate you taking the time to put up those references.

5/14/2007 6:37 PM  

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