Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

“American Values”

I really hate hearing politicians making claims of representing “American Values” and it’s never more apparent than during an election year. McCain is all about American Values. Obama is all about American Values. Bush is all about American Values. Everyone claims to be all about American Values.

Yet nobody ever actually defines what constitutes American Values. You hear quotes like the “values upon which this great nation was founded” or the “values that make this country great” or the “values that we Americans hold sacred” along with similarly vague descriptions.

I understand it’s all about staying vague because if any politician ever specifically defined what his or her values are, it would alienate a huge percentage of the voter base. Generic references like “valuing freedom” (one of Bush’s favorite values, it seems) sound great on the surface, but under that surface, everyone has a different definition. You can even narrow it down to, for example, “valuing freedom of religion” and people will still have hugely variant views on what that means.

So you’ll hear politicians say things like “I cherish the American Values that have made this country great! Values like freedom, honesty, bravery, and hard work!”

You’ll never hear them define any of that. You won’t hear “Values like freedom… of religion, speech, choice… where everyone is equally free to chose what they believe without interference from the government; where people have the right to openly speak out against personal or governmental injustice; where people are free to choose their own lifestyle without persecution.”

Even that is a bit vague, but it’s far clearer than politicians dare to go. The danger of alienating a voter base by providing a point for disagreement is far too great.

But until there’s more definition, American Values can mean “freedom, honesty, bravery, and hard work” or it can mean “racism, intolerance, hatred, and violence.” Both sets represent the values of some Americans… and without further definition by a politician who claims American Values, one set could fit with just as much validity as the other.

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