In tweets and public comments made over July13-15, you said that Americans not happy with their country should leave it. I am not happy with my country and I am not leaving it.
I am not leaving it because is it my country. My father’s family line came here from Germany and my mother entered this country as an immigrant child from Italy. I am a patriot, which means that I love my country; I love it enough to recognize and admit its failures and shortcomings, to criticize it with the goal of making it a better country. I am a white American that recognizes my country’s long history of racism, including legal slavery for over two centuries. I recognize that when our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, led us toward the emancipation of slaves and the abolition of slavery, he was assassinated by a man that believed that he would be seen as a conquering hero for killing Lincoln. My country produced both Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth. When my country finally abolished slavery—and that at the cost of a bloody war between two great regions of our country, the bloodiest war we have ever fought—it followed it with the Jim Crow era, which featured the systematic subjugation of African-Americans for another century, with thousands of lynchings, and not just in the south. In some ways, I am not happy with my country and I am not leaving it.
In my lifetime, which is the same span of years as yours, racism has continued. The civil rights crusade of the second half of the twentieth century produced some monumental results—and more bloodshed and violence. And now some of those hard-fought gains are in jeopardy of being lost as you laud “fine people on both sides.” I am not happy with my country just now and I am not leaving it.
I respect Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe for their courageous stands on behalf of millions of Americans that aren’t sharing in the American dream. They are patriots, in the tradition of the great prophets of the Old Testament that railed against Israel’s injustices and called the nation to honor its charter in pursuit of justice for all, precisely because they loved Israel. Biblical prophets would never say “love it or leave it,” or “my country right or wrong.” They would say something more like this: repent and makes things better, in the name of God, for friend, neighbor, and foreigner. When you try to bully Americans like Kaepernick and Rapinoe and Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley and Tlaib and Omar, I am not happy with my country and I am not leaving it.
Patriotism does not overlook the flaws and failings of one’s country. Love of country demands honest assessment and diligent work to improve that country, to seek, as our nation’s charter has it, “a more perfect union.” I love my country; therefore, I criticize it when it falls short of the ideals which have shaped its vision.
You campaigned for the presidency by criticizing our country. Your inaugural address has become known as the “American carnage” speech. You regularly criticize the congress and the judiciary system. You criticize the Department of Justice and the F. B. I. You criticize our immigration system. You criticize the press. You criticize members of your cabinet that you appointed to office. You criticize your predecessors in the office of president. You criticize just about everything. It is the inalienable right of every American to criticize it, to name its failings, and to seek for a better tomorrow. Being unhappy with our country is not sufficient reason to leave it. I am not happy with my country and I am not leaving it.
It is precisely because I love my native land that I resist your efforts to bully people into submission. It is precisely because I love my country that I cannot be silent when you provoke hateful racism and thinly veiled white supremacism and nationalism. It is precisely because I love my homeland that I have no intention of leaving it. Because I respect the office of the president of the United States, I object to how you are serving in it. These days I am not happy with my country and I am not leaving it.
An American patriot,
Harry J. Heintz