Stone: My very short Christmas list
December 18, 2013
With Dec. 25 just about exactly a week away, I've been doing some serious thinking about what I want for Christmas.
And what I want for Christmas is — I want my country back.
I say that phrase exactly the way they do over at the Grinchworks (aka tea party) — except that, of course, we're talking about different "countries." Sure, we're talking about the same real estate: sea to shining sea, purple mountains, amber waves of grain and all that. Same history: Plymouth Rock, Paul Revere, Lexington-Concord and the rest of it. But all the same: very different countries.
By the way, as I'm sure a lot of you know, I am exactly as much of an old codger (aka, Old Fart) as any of those silly costume-wearing tea party fools. (And yes, I realize I am being insulting and intolerant — that's exactly what I mean to be.)
And I want my country back!
My country is open, loving, strong, ethical, a true beacon of freedom. And fairness. And justice.
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My country is tolerably tolerant and trying damn hard to get better.
My country knows that you don't get to be great just by screaming that you're great. You get to be great by working and working and working at actually being great.
You pay the price. You do the work. And when you fail, when you fall down, you get back up and keep at it.
You take care of the sick and the weak.
You want them to be healthy and strong. You help them to be healthy and strong. But when they're sick and weak, for crying out loud, you take care of them.
And my country invests in its roads and bridges and, above all, in education — it invests in its future because it knows that work is never done.
My country sent men to the moon.
That's my country.
And I want my country back.
My country is proud that it elected a black man president.
And equally proud that it elected an intelligent, honest and concerned man president.
And my country is ashamed of the times it has gone astray and the things it has done wrong, the many, many things it has done wrong.
It knows those mistakes don't mean it's a bad country. It's not. My country is a great country.
But a great country — like a great man — knows and admits when it has been wrong.
Slavery was wrong. It was worse than wrong. It was evil.
And glorifying the culture of slavery, by waving Confederate flags, is also wrong.
My country knows that.
And when someone says he is "celebrating our culture and heritage" by waving that flag, my country knows — my country remembers with pain and sorrow — that the "culture and heritage" being celebrated is a culture that committed treason and started a war dedicated to maintaining slavery, a war that almost destroyed this nation.
My country knows that very well.
I want that country back.
My country wants to be the guy you respect because he's big and strong, and when you disagree with him he doesn't punch you in the face. He talks intelligently and tries to persuade you. And when you still disagree, he still doesn't punch you in the face.
My country fights reluctantly when it must.
And when my country does go to war, it doesn't torture its prisoners. Because that would be wrong. And my country is determined to be right. How simple is that?
My country knows that it has fallen short time and again, and it knows that it needs to keep trying to do better.
Better for the poor. Better for the oppressed. Better for those who have been denied justice, denied fairness, denied their rights. For whatever reason. For their age or their sex. For the color of their skin or whom they love or what language they speak.
My country says, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
It says that, and it means it. Because my country is big enough in heart and spirit to welcome those people and share our greatness.
You say that country doesn't exist?
Yes, it does.
It's the country envisioned by the men and women who founded the United States of America. It's the country I grew up in.
Yes, things were simpler then. But simplicity wasn't what made my country great. Evil can be simple too.
My country is the country my parents taught me about when I was young. It's the country I was taught about in school — in public schools, paid for by property taxes that my parents were glad to pay because they understood that education was one of the most important things a country can do. Just as they were glad to pay the taxes that fixed our roads and delivered our mail.
Well, maybe not "glad." Hell no, definitely not "glad."
You know what? My country doesn't pay its taxes gladly — that's ridiculous. But my country pays its taxes willingly because we know we have to pay to keep our country alive and strong and growing.
That's my country.
And that's what I want for Christmas. I want my country back.
And Santa, you had better deliver. You better drag that entire country down the chimney, wrap it with a bow and tuck it under the tree.
Or I'll tell all the other boys and girls that you don't exist.
And you don't want that to happen, do you, Santa?
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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