I am an American.
My name is not Jimmy Johnson, it is not Virgil Goode and it is not John McCain. But I am an American. No more, no less than any of these people.
My name is Cenk Uygur. And I am proud of it. It might sound a little different to your ear, but it doesn't make it any less American. That's the whole point of the country. If I wanted to live in a place where your race, ethnicity or religion mattered, there were plenty of other countries to choose from. I chose to be an American because I believed we were all equals in the eyes of the law.
Apparently, 42 United States Congressmen are not so sure. The House passed a resolution today celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The point of the resolution was to show that we are an open country and that a Muslim-American is equal to any other American. That we are all to be celebrated as Americans. Forty-two representatives couldn't get themselves to agree.
These Congressmen did not vote for the resolution, they voted "present" instead. Is this a silent protest? What are they protesting? Do they disagree that we should celebrate all of the cultures in the country? Do they disagree that we should have Muslims in the country at all?
One of them, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) has already said that on the record -- and refuses to apologize. He said we should have less Muslims in Congress and less Muslims in the country at all. His colleagues didn't see fit to correct him. Moveon takes out a newspaper ad questioning one general and Congress goes ballistic. A US Congressman says we should discriminate against a whole group of US citizens and not a peep.
When John McCain said he wanted a Christian president earlier in the week, I didn't pay much attention to it. I think we overemphasize gaffes on the campaign trail. I care how these people are going to lead the country, not how many errors they make while speaking 24/7 on the campaign trail.
By the way, how did a media so obsessed with verbal blunders decide that George W. Bush was the right man for the job - twice? We were told John Kerry misspoke too often. What a topsy-turvy world we live in.
So, I didn't want to get caught up in this game. At this point, I am unfortunately used to people deriding people of the Muslim faith in America anyway. It has become an ugly reality of our country. It's so common that it's taken for granted now.
A couple of days ago, Ann Coulter was on the Today show and she said the real problem with Senator McCain's comment was that he later said he would vote for a Muslim if he agreed with him. How dare he? Doesn't he realize that a patriotic American would never vote for a Muslim? They are the enemy. They are less than other Americans. They are not equal. This is a Christian nation!
You see, that's what bothers me. I am not a religious Muslim at all. In fact, I am agnostic. I don't participate in Ramadan. I don't need a resolution celebrating it. But once you bring it up for a vote, to purposely not vote for it is a clear sign. It is not a slip of the tongue or a miscommunication in the midst of a hectic campaign schedule. It is a deliberate act meant to send a message. And that's what I do care about. It is a sign that we are not welcome.
You think these bigoted, xenophobic Congressmen care whether we practice the tenets of Islam, or how religious we are or what our actual beliefs might be. Of course, not. They just look at us and say those people are not of us.
Well, whether you like it or not, we are Americans. And I will not bow my head. I will not accept being classified as a second class citizen. I will not let you spit on my people and act like we are beneath you because of our ethnicity.
We had Naomi Wolf on our show last week and she was making a point that once the government starts depriving US citizens with names like Yaser Hamdi of their constitutional rights, soon they will come after people with names like Chris Robinson. She meant well by it and she is right. But think about what that says to me. My name is Cenk Uygur. Why shouldn't other Americans be concerned until they come for Chris Robinson? Shouldn't they care if they come for Cenk Uygur, too?
We had Senator John Danforth on the show this week and he said he was disappointed by John McCain's comments. The former Republican Senator and Episcopal priest stated emphatically that we are not a Christian nation. We are a nation that brings all different beliefs together and mixing our government with a specific religion corrupts the government and the religion.
He is right. And think about what it says to all the rest of us when people feel perfectly free to go on television and declare that this is a Christian nation. They are putting out a huge sign saying -- You Are Not Welcome Here. This country is for Christians!
Read the constitution. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington did not agree. They were careful to point out that this is not a Christian nation. That unlike every other country in the world at the time, they were going to make America a nation that had free exercise of religion -- any and all religions. They were not going to let any religion rule the country or identify its inhabitants.
Read the constitution. You're wrong. It specifically says that all religions are welcome. The whole point of the country was to escape from religious persecution. No one religion can force its views on all of us, even if that religion is Christianity.
Read the constitution. I am an American. And under no circumstances am I going to let you take that away from me.
This is not a stand to protect me, my religion or my ethnicity. This is a stand to protect the idea of America. This country was supposed to bring all of us together. It was supposed to establish the idea that we are all equals. I still believe in that dream, and I will fight for it. I am an American.