The moment someone says (or writes) to me, “You are not a good American,” I know there’s no use in responding.
What the phrase actually means is this: “You do not accept my narrow definition of what an American really is, so I know I’m a better person than you are.”
Intellectually and logically the person who makes such a flat statement is locked in. You can scream and shout from a preconceived notion, but you can’t have a discussion, which takes two open minds.
The rule applies if something else is substituted for, “American” – say, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Republican, Democrat, Hindu, Buddhist or Libertarian. We are all free to define ourselves as we wish and not under any obligation to accept another person’s definition of who and what we are.
Who and what we are is the result of our actions, not our beliefs. Think about it. Belief alone never fed a hungry person, built a shelter, put out a fire, stopped a crime in progress or stepped up to volunteer for military service in time of war. Action is required for all of them.
This not to disparage belief because belief is the spark that sets the action in motion. But accusing other people of being unpatriotic because they disagree with your politics does not make you a good American anymore than mocking someone else’s religion makes you a good Christian.
Years ago I heard story about a man in a cemetery putting flowers on a grave. Nearby, another man dressed in colorful ethnic clothing was kneeling by a grave and placing an ornate bowl of rice on that grave.
“When do you think that person will come and eat the rice?” the first man asked. “When the person for whom you are leaving the flowers comes to smell them,” the second man said.