Anti-American and unaware

Posted: Oct 26, 2002 12:00 AM
If you oppose abortion rights, you're anti-abortion. Oppose capital punishment? You're anti-death penalty. If you oppose President Bush's Iraq policy, you're anti-Bush on Iraq. It follows then that if you strongly object to not only the Bush Iraq policy, but also the popular war on terrorism and maintaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and if you believe that the United States attacks other countries, not in self-defense, but as an act of hegemony, and if you believe the American people are the war on terrorism's willing dupes, sorry, but you're anti-American. Saturday, The San Francisco Chronicle ran a letter that misquoted something I wrote about a California Federation of Teachers resolution against U.S. war on Iraq. The letter said I wrote that resolution supporters were "un-American." Actually, I used the term "anti-American." What else does one make of language like the "so-called war on terrorism" and the assertion that Bush seeks "any pretext to overthrow the government of a sovereign nation"? Un-American, according to my Merriam-Webster's, means "not characteristic of or consistent with American customs, principles or traditions." By that definition, the act of dissent clearly is American. And one should take great care calling someone "un-American," given the word's historic link with the McCarthy-era political witch-hunt for domestic enemies. Anti-American means "opposed or hostile to the people or the government politics of the United States." Against one policy, including the Bush-Iraq plan? Doesn't qualify. Against a couple? Probably not. Convinced that key popular U.S. policies are rooted in a base desire to dominate other countries? Does qualify. When New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman writes that the Bush administration should push for more energy conservation to weaken foreign-oil oligarchs who undermine democracy in the Middle East, he's dissenting against a Bush policy. That's American. When a Commonwealth Club attendee yells out to Al Gore that he trusts Saddam Hussein more than he trusts President Bush, that's anti-American. When Sen. Dianne Feinstein supports an amendment that would allow a U.S. attack on Iraq only after the United Nations authorized it, she was opposing the president for a stand that she thought would be best for America. When Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., went to Baghdad and said that the Iraqis "would allow us to go anywhere" and you have to take them "at face value," that's anti-American. McDermott was willing to trust the genocidal, duplicitous Saddam Hussein over Bush, whom he said might mislead the American people about the Iraqi threat. And, I'll add, it's the anti-war types who are quick to sling the un-American label. Actor Ed Asner's son wrote a letter to The Chronicle calling me "un-American" after I wrote a column dissenting with the anti-war "Not in Our Name" campaign in which his father was involved. (Just think, if Matthew Asner ran for Congress he could start a new House Committee on Un-American Activities.) CFT member Barry Fike wrote that criticizing his union's resolution demonstrates a "misunderstanding of the First Amendment." Which shows what he knows about the First Amendment. Hey, in America, people have a right to be wrong. They're free to be anti-American -- and free to go ballistic if you call them anti-American. Still, it's odd that anti-war protesters, who dismiss the public as sheep, members of Congress as sell-outs and their critics as bloodthirsty hawks, nonetheless bristle when called anti-American. They shouldn't fight it, but embrace who they are. They should be proud to be anti-American.