Patriotism in these times

Dear friend of People For the American Way,

I’ve always felt myself to be a patriotic American, but I’m not sure I could always say exactly what that meant.

Today, as a World War II combat vet on the eve of Memorial Day weekend, I think a big part of it is loving our country even when it is hard to do – like when the response to children’s and teachers’ lives lost in yet another mass shooting is to continue with a massive NRA convention just miles from the tragedy. Or when 10 people are murdered at a grocery store by a young man whose heart and mind are poisoned by racist ideology.

I weep for those people and their families. I weep for our country.

Our country is not defined by the worst of us, of course. But we must not pretend that they are not part of who we are in this moment as a nation.

In some awful, terrible way, they and the weapons they use are part of our culture. That’s not to say that we must accept it. Quite the opposite. It’s an urgent reminder that – as patriots, and lovers of liberty, equality, and the American Way – we need to push and fight and speak out and do everything we can to move our country in a better direction.

Our next major test in choosing that direction will be in November’s rapidly approaching midterm elections, when everything we stand for and the fundamental rights of millions of Americans will be on the ballot. And there’s so much work to do – and so many voters to reach – before then.

To that end, I’m asking that you chip in as generously as you can to stop hate and defend democracy by powering the work of our shared project, People For the American Way >>

The teenager who murdered Black people in Buffalo … the guy who drove nine hours to kill Latinos in El Paso … the man who gunned down Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh … the one who shot nine people at a Bible study in Mother Emanuel Church because he, like the Buffalo shooter, was convinced it was somehow his duty to kill Black people…

They used violence to snuff out the lives of people they didn’t think counted as “real” Americans. Our country’s history includes a long and bloody trail of that kind of violence.

But that is not our whole story. Our history is also a story of people coming together to counter that violence. And maybe even more importantly, to counter the idea behind it – the idea that this country belongs to any particular group more than the rest of us. That’s where People For the American Way comes in.

When I joined with Rep. Barbara Jordan and others to create People For the American Way, we felt it was important to give people a way to join with others in asserting that this country belongs to all of us. No one is more American on account of their religion or skin color – or where they were born or who they love.

I feel like my heart could explode with the urgency to spread that message at a time when so many unprincipled people are dividing us for power or profit or both.

That’s one reason I am grateful that People For the American Way gives me, gives us, a way to side with those who believe that We the People means all the people.

I am grateful that in these troubled times, People For has, in our president Ben Jealous, a leader with a heart for upholding a better and bigger vision of America, and a history of organizing people to move us forward in making that vision a reality.

Some days the bad news feels overwhelming. The violence and contempt and dishonesty can be so dispiriting. Those are the days we need each other the most. Those are the days I remind myself to be grateful that there are so many of us who have made a commitment to making a difference.

Today, I am writing to ask you to recommit to the ideal of the American Way and the work of People For the American Way. We have a country to save.

Please join me in the effort with an urgent donation now >>

The People For family and the commitment of supporters like you to Truth, Justice, and the American Way is what gives me hope. Thank you for that. And for everything you do.

Your friend,