I was moved and inspired by Barack Obama's speech Thursday night. Maybe you weren't. Maybe you disagree with his every idea and policy suggestion. That's fine. So much the better.
Seriously. I think this country is the better for having different points of view. When informed people discuss and debate ideas, I think we're acting out the vision that the founding fathers had for this nation. It's part of the idea of America that we all love.
Senator Obama's speech included an appeal to raise the quality of debate from the idea that either party has a monopoly on loving this country. If we could respect the notion that people of both parties who dedicate their lives to public service do it out of love for their country and a desire to see America and the lives of Americans improve, then we could move on to talking about the ways in which we want to do those things. You can and should disagree as loudly as you like with those approaches you think are wrong. That is when we begin to get somewhere.
Maybe you think all politicians or just politicians from the other party are jaded and cynical and only in it for the money and power. It's possible that it's true of some of them, but on the whole I don't buy it. And even if all elected officials were nothing more than selfish egomaniacs, there are legions of people working in politics whose name will never be on a ballot and who work grueling hours for practically no pay. They do it because they believe that they can make a positive change. I disagree with the way that a lot of them want to go about it, but I respect their commitment all the same.
There are those who say that half of us don't wave the flag enough. I say if we don't ever set down the flag, then we don't have any free hands to do the work of improving our nation and the lives of the people who live here. And if you think I hate America because I don't think it's perfect as is, then I don't know what to tell you. Well, that's not true. I have plenty of things I'd like to tell you, but I have a feeling you wouldn't listen anyway.
If you identify with a political party, I hope you've thought through your reasons for choosing it. I have talked to people in both parties who can clearly explain the reasoning behind their choice. I have nothing but respect for anyone who looks at both parties, learns about what each stands for, and makes an informed choice about which party better represents his or her ideology. And I enjoy few things more than a rational debate about real issues with someone knowledgeable who disagrees with me.
But if you'd rather spew vague generalities and things you read in a forwarded email, then you're going to lose both my attention and my respect.
Let's be better than that. Let's understand that while the idea of America is something universal, our experiences of the reality of America are varied. Let's not dismiss each other out of hand for wanting to do things differently. Let's talk, listen, and disagree respectfully, based on information, values, and ideology rather than a belief that the other side and all those who support it have a nefarious agenda in mind. Let's be the kind of citizens that make America something worth loving, not only in theory, but in practice.
There's my convention speech.