Sarah Palin’s recent comments that the United States is a “Christian nation” along with her assumption of the role of arbiter of who is a “real American” suggests that she may have spent a little too much time on her porch in Alaska staring at Russia and needs to be reacquainted with the lower 48. I have taken the liberty of outlining an itinerary for the former half-term governor.
Day 1: Las Vegas-Independence-Bakersfield. It is fitting to begin the tour in the City of Illusions, since the 250 mile drive east will take you through an area that is among the nation’s highest in both foreclosures and unemployment. We can make plenty of stops along the way so you can explain how they are better off because of the laissez-faire policies of the Bush administration that you continue to advocate.
At Manzanar Relocation Center, which was one of 10 internment centers for Japanese-Americans during World War II, you will have your first opportunity to discuss how you define “real Americans.” We will end the day in Bakersfield where unemployment exceeds 17 percent.
Day 2: Bakersfield-Oklahoma City–Montgomery. After starting the morning with your demonstration of how to spot an undocumented alien in a non-racial way, we will fly to Oklahoma City for a visit to the memorial dedicated to the 168 people killed in the 1995 federal building bombing. This would be a perfect venue for you to discuss your comments such as “reload” and “take them out” to a city that knows first-hand how reckless political speech can lead to violence.
We end the day in Alabama’s capital where we will visit with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist hate groups and can inform you about the dramatic increase in activity since the election of President Obama. After the briefing, Congressman John Lewis can take you on a tour of nearby Selma, where he suffered a fractured skull while marching. Lewis will tell what it felt like to hear racial epithets from so-called “real Americans” 40 years later as he walked to cast his vote for health care reform.
Day 3: Hagerstown-Augusta. We start the day in Sharpsburg, Md. home of the Antietam National Battlefield. It is hard to believe that these serene hills gave us the bloodiest day in American history — 23,000 casualties in 12 hours — in a war over who was entitled to be considered an American.
From there we will fly to Maine to visit the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan. Sen. Smith was famous for her Declaration of Conscience during the McCarthy era in which she complained that those “who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who … ignore [its] basic principles.” Smith added that an opposition party should act responsibly and not seek to “ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny — fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.”
Day 4: Providence. Patrick Kennedy will take us to watch the city’s famed “Water Fire” along the banks of the Providence River where Roger Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island in 1636 based on his vision that there should be a “wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world,” and that religious freedom must extend to all and not just Christians.
As a result of Williams’ vision, Rhode Island became known as “the safest refuge of conscience” and home to the new world’s first Baptist church and synagogue. You will see how Rhode Islanders remain committed to the separation of church and state, as even though the state is by far the most heavily Catholic state in the country it has defied the church on issues such as abortion and gay marriage.
On a detour to Newport, we will visit Touro Synagogue and read President Washington’s letter assuring the congregation that all faiths are equal in this country — a point he would later emphasize in the Treaty of Tripoli which expressly states that “the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
At the conclusion of Water Fire, before a city in which one in four residents is foreign born, you will have the opportunity to discuss the 4,300 mile journey, elaborate on your “Christian Nation” comments and address the question of whether it is more important to be American by birth or by deed.
This will provide a made-for-TV opportunity for you to demonstrate whether you seek to lead or divide; whether you are truly guided by providence or just naked ambition and ignorance and, ultimately, whether you belong in Washington or nearby Salem.
Bennet Kelley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.