A Real American Lion

During the heat of the last congressional and presidential election, Republican Robin Hayes told a crowd that "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God."  Although Hayes immediately distanced himself from his own words, they express a sentiment that is held by many conservatives  You can be a liberal, you can be a real American, but you can't be both.

As we mourn the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, no one can dispute that he was a real American.  He came from a family tradition of military service.  He served in the Army himself.  He lost all three of his brothers in the service of our country.  He voted against the Iraq war, yet he supported the fighters and their families.  Senator Kennedy loved our country, and he spent almost every waking minute serving it and his extended family until his dying breath at age 77.  He worked, he accomplished, he achieved, and he believed in God.  


Senator Kennedy also meets anyone's definition of a liberal.  He was born on the East Coast.  He attended Harvard.  He fought big business.  He espoused the rights and concerns of those less fortunate than he.  Who he was, what he believed and what he did earned him the sobriquet "liberal lion of the Senate," but it also earned him "lib" and a few more personal nicknames from conservative politicians and pundits.


No political view owns the term "real American," just as no view owns patriotism or love of country.  As we remember what Senator Kennedy has done for our country and the lives of its citizens, few would dispute that he, along with his brothers, were "real Americans."  It is equally indisputable that others who share Senator Kennedy's views but who lack his power and prestige have the same claim to "real American" as those who fought him at every turn. 


One of the many gifts Senator Kennedy left to our country is a truly American gift of respect for the plights and views of others.  As we contemplate a political landscape without him for the first time in almost fifty years, we should not squander his gift by replacing tolerance with intolerance, thoughtfulness with name calling, and dialog with derision.  If we do, all Americans will be the poorer for it.