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Whose America Is That?

Nothing about the content of the Pledge to America is surprising -- it's the same Bush-era economic agenda that got us into the mess we're in today.
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Nothing about the content of the Pledge to America is surprising -- it's the same Bush-era economic agenda that got us into the mess we're in today: deregulate business, starve government services, starve the middle class and starve the working class so corporate special interests and the wealthy can feed on the spoils.

But the presentation leaves me stunned.

It's 48 pages of fancy, historic-looking display type and photographs. Lots of photographs. In fact, it shows off photos of 384 white people by our count. One Asian American. A musician who might be Asian. One young man in military camo who may be Latino. And if you look very, very closely, five African Americans. A total of eight people of color.

What America are they pledging to?

It doesn't look like the America I know.

The Census Bureau says people of color made up 34 percent of the population last year. In the eyes of those who made the Pledge to America, people of color are barely 2 percent.

I haven't seen such a false image of who America really is since 1950s-era television, back when Lucy and the Beaver seemed to live on a planet with no people of color whatsoever.

Maybe the people in those photos are the "real Americans" Sarah Palin has talked about. Real white.

What stuns me about the document isn't that the party doesn't have much diversity to photograph in its leadership or among the faithful who turn out at its gatherings. What amazes me is that agenda-setters in the Republican machinery think it's OK to ignore more than a third of the population. No, more than that -- they choose to ignore more than a third of the population, choose to keep certain people -- including (no coincidence) those who look like President Barack Obama -- out of the spotlight, out of their vision of America.

Policies that reach backward toward failure echo a vision for America that looks backward and blinds itself to opportunities to move forward.

While the Pledge to America is reviewed by the media, tens of thousands of union members, faith groups, civil and human rights activists and other progressives are getting ready to come to Washington, D.C., for the Oct. 2 One Nation Working Together gathering at the Lincoln Memorial. People of every race and ethnicity, people of all faiths, LGBT and straight, old and young and in between. We're coming together to put America back to work and pull America back together. Together, we're calling for good jobs, restoring the economy, fundamental justice and high-quality education for all our children. We believe in the American Dream--for everyone who has the good fortune to call this land "home." We believe America's best days are ahead of us.

But the Pledge to America comes from people who don't agree. They say we ask for too much. They say even with all our hard work and wealth, the richest nation on Earth can't afford good wages anymore. That we can't expect secure jobs, or a good life for our children or a decent retirement. That those days are behind us.

They've given up on America.

On its cover, the Pledge to America says it is an agenda "built on America's founding values."

Again, it makes me ask, "Whose America?"

The founding values I was taught, growing up in a heartland town of new American immigrants, begin with the fact we are all created equal and all entitled to the same benefits of a great nation. That we are all free to worship as we choose, free to associate, free to enjoy basic security and the opportunity for success. That's not color based. Not ethnicity based.

One of the photos I didn't count in the Pledge to America was that of the Statue of Liberty -- who invites the world to "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Those sacred words don't include a postscript saying: Just don't expect to see those huddled masses included in the GOP Pledge to America.

This weekend, One Nation will issue a very different pledge to America. One that I--a white guy--will be part of, along with my brothers and sisters of many colors, many beliefs, many backgrounds.

I hope you will come to the National Mall this weekend. And when you do, take a photo. Capture what America really looks like. And make your own pledge to the country we love.

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