- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Senator Barack Obama’s recent barb about bitter small-town Americans has rekindled the furor over his pastor’s infamous comments about America. And the most noisome thing about those who still defend the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Sen. Obama’s mentor and former pastor, is that the defenders insinuate that America is essentially a bad country.

If America was as bad a place as Sen. Obama’s pastor claimed (God damn America, U.S. of KKKA, etc.), then why would millions of people from around the world go to great lengths to come here? As a Third World immigrant who came here a lone young man and who, through sheer hard work, moved from hopeless penury to the upper middle class, I know firsthand about the basic fairness of America.

As a scientifically trained person, I look for empirical evidence before forming an opinion. And the empirical evidence for America’s goodness is hardly arcane. After all, if America was really as racist as some claim, then how do you explain why the country legally admits more nonwhite immigrants than white immigrants? As recent immigration statistics show, America legally admits more immigrants from Mexico than from all of Europe combined, and more from India than Ireland. Are all these nonwhite immigrants coming here because they masochistically expect to be oppressed?

Granted, no informed person could deny America’s racist past. But there is no black American alive today who was ever a slave. Every black American alive today has the opportunity to improve himself, just like the poor immigrants who come here. It makes absolutely no sense to say that someone born in America — even in the nastiest of inner cities — is more disadvantaged than a dirt-poor foreigner coming here with only a few words of English.

The comments made by Mr. Obama’s pastor are part of a larger picture that is disturbing. For instance, his wife Michelle said she only recently became proud to be an American. Her husband himself refuses to wear an American flag pin on his lapel, and when asked why not, he dismissively said he has other ways of showing patriotism.

A citizen by naturalization, I am unabashedly proud to be an American. I am troubled by Mr. Obama’s apparent aversion to personal displays of patriotism. After all, he is not running for local sheriff ; he is running for president. Do we want a commander in chief who is uncomfortable with displaying patriotism? And if the commander in chief is not openly proud to be American, why should anyone else be? Is such reluctant patriotism a harbinger of blame-America policies under a possible Obama administration?

Some say that asking such questions is questioning the senator’s patriotism and therefore is not appropriate. Nonsense. We the public have every right to question a candidate’s patriotism — because the depth of one’s patriotism shapes his view of this country, and vice versa. A president with an uneasy patriotism is unlikely to cherish the long history of American exceptionalism on the world stage, and is likely to sacrifice American interests for international appeasement.

The God damn America rhetoric of Sen. Obama’s pastor has an appeal to those who always scapegoat whites for the apathy among racial minorities. Unfortunately, such rhetoric actually enslaves the very minds that it seeks to enlighten. Instead of encouraging people to take charge of their lives, such rhetoric makes people blame others. No immigrant would have ever been successful in America if he thought he could blame everyone else.

The right of free expression to racial demagogues like Sen. Obama’s pastor is part of democracy, and democracy was invented by white culture. In comparison, oppression and tyranny are hallmarks of many nonwhite cultures around the world. After all, it is not in white cultures that women are forced to marry strangers, wear face-covering garments when in public, and are forbidden from associating with males other than their immediate relatives. Do the likes of Rev. Wright actually think that Islamic society, for instance, is more democratic and egalitarian than white Christian society? If they actually believe that America is an oppressive place, then why do they continue to live here?

In fact, there is a perfectly legal avenue for anyone who is ashamed to be an American to emancipate himself of the burden of being an American. All he needs to do is go to a foreign country, personally appear before an officer at the American embassy, and sign an oath of renunciation of U.S. citizenship.

So, let me say this to those liberals who constantly blame America: If you dislike America so much that your Americophobia is consuming you, then you have a God-given right to leave the place that you believe is God-damned. And on your way out of the country, just stop by the international arrivals terminal of the airport and watch the hopeful immigrants coming in. They know what life is like elsewhere and they chose America because they know it is a better country than any other.

Ian de Silva is an engineer who has side interests in politics and history.

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