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Being an American skeptic promotes national unity

On Behalf of | Oct 12, 2019 | Firm News

On October 18, 2019 USA Today had an opinion column with the writer being Donald Trump.  A political response by Bernie Sanders can be found here.  Readers response to the opinion column  here was headed: “Trump and his party are on a wildly unpopular mission to gut Medicare and protections for pre-existing conditions.”  A fact check of the statements of fact in the Donald Trump opinion column are shown to be false here.

Some would say erroneous statements by Trump should not be allowed in the press.  Others will say that the responses criticizing the Trump column is unpatriotic.  Both statements are wrong.  . U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo reasoned in Palko v. State  Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319 (1937) that: “[f]reedom of thought… is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom. With rare aberrations a pervasive recognition of this truth can be traced in our history, political and legal.”

The first response is incorrect because erroneous statements should be allowed in the newspapers.  As Thomas Jefferson said, “let them [who make erroneous statements] stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it.”  This contemplates that intelligent response to Trump’s statements must be allowed.

That brings us to the second response and why it is also wrong.  Benjamin Franklin wrote, “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” So before we agree to serve in the military, before we voice support for a president or other government official, we must be willing to dissent. And I believe this can take the form of questioning authority.  Theodore Roosevelt tells us: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American people.”  Franklin and Roosevelt are telling us we must question the authority of even the president of the United States.

The take away to this is that intelligent skepticism may be thought of as a way to overcome despair or cynicism, it is to say “Yes, we’re not perfect, but we’re trying.” It’s easy to get cynical about our country and the way it’s being run (just look at national debates of everything from gun control to the Supreme Court). But patriotism is saying no to cynical feelings, believing in our ideals even when we don’t live up to them.

A skeptic must be free to criticize our nation and our government.  In fact, patriots should be the most fervent of critics when it comes to the way their nation is being run. But this criticism comes from a place of hope, not one of despair. Patriots criticize because they know their nation can be better.  Bryan Zollinger is a Republican Idaho State Representative who said, “If our nation is to survive, it must have a national narrative that seeks not to blame but to inspire, not to divide but to unite, not to demean but uplift.” I totally take exception to the implication that criticizing the government can’t be done by a patriot and someone who loves their country and that such criticism is demeaning of Our Constitution is one of the most inspiring and culture changing pieces of work ever struck by man. It has held this nation together for two centuries. Progressives and liberals do not hate Idaho or the United States of America. To say or promote such an idea is fomenting division. It is not unity.”