S—— and I where having dinner last night and talking about this article [ paulgraham.com ] titled ‘What You Can’t Say.’ Basically it talked about how many things we are told by various people (political parties, religious groups and other peoples in power) that we should not say may in fact be true and that these people do not want them said for fear we will realize these things are true and counter to what they want us to believe. Anyway, the author points out that an easy way to find such things is to look at how they are labeled—saying something is ‘false’ is a statement of fact (whether you got your facts right is another story) but when we are told something is ‘blasphemy’, ‘sacrilege’, heresy’, ‘indecent’, ‘improper’, inappropriate’ or ‘un-American’ then we should examine why these labels have been applied. Perhaps the people applying them feel threatened by these things?
The one label that really gets me is ‘un-American.’ And the quickness with which people label things as ‘un-American’—especially politician and most especially since September 2001. I cannot think of any thought or idea that is ‘un-American.’ Now everyone has a right to free speech and therefore a right to label things as they see fit—even ‘un-American’ but I can’t comprehend it. It is our duty, as Americans, to question the things our government does (it is our complacency in this duty that tends to get us in trouble—but that is another rant.) Not only is it the right of every American to think and speak anything we wish (we are for some reason not allowed to say things like “I’d like to kill President Bush’—but I think that if I want to SAY that, it should not be illegal) but it is our most precious and valuable freedom. Embodied in the first amendment to the Constitution—the very first entry of the Bill of Rights. So if the right to speak your mind is at the core of being American how can anything any American say be ‘un-American?’ Anti-American, yes—un-American, no. Impossible.