One of Us

The email that came in over the electronic transom this week sounded a familiar theme.

“I don’t know what happened to you,” it said. “You used to be one of us.”

One of us. I’ve heard the same words from the other side of the political spectrum.

“I used to think you were one of those right-wing fruitcakes,” another email said. “I’m glad to see that I was wrong. You appear to be one of us.”

One of us. Watch the heated rhetoric that dominates so much of today’s political debate and you will find those words lurking.

The anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans for Truth base much of their campaign against the Democratic Presidential Nominee on the feeling that his anti-war actions after returning from Vietnam proved he wasn’t “one of us.”

On the other side, some veterans who served in Vietnam have problems with President Bush’s decision to sit out the war in the Texas Air Guard. “It proves he wasn’t one of us,” said an angry email from a Viet vet.

In Virginia this week, Congressman Ed Schrock decided not to run again after a web site said he was gay. Schrock told friends that GOP party officials told him that if he is, in fact, gay, then it would be a problem. “You’re not one of us,” he says he was told.

One of us. Who, are what, does it mean to be one of us?

Depends on your point of view. To conservatives, one of us means one thing. To liberals it means something entirely different.

Hard-core Republicans have a term for members of their party they feel are not “one of us.” They call them RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).

“If you’re not one of us then you are the enemy,” said one angry email this week. “I want nothing to do with someone who doesn’t share my beliefs.”

Sadly, those who insist on knowing if everyone they meet is “one of us” or not contribute to the bitterness and divisiveness that is tearing this country apart.

Being “one of us” does not mean being a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, right or left.

Being “one of us” does not mean being pro-life, pro-choice, pro gay marriage, anti gay marriage or any of the other single issues that try to dominate debate.

Being “one of us” should mean only one thing.

It should mean being an American.

Americans come in all sizes, all shapes, all colors, all creeds and all philosophies.

Americans are heterosexual, homosexual, asexual and non-sexual.

Americans are Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, moderate, right, left, centrist and independent.

Americans listen to Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken. Americans went to Vietnam and stayed home. Americans supported the war and opposed it. Americans support the war in Iraq and oppose it.

Being an American means not caring whether or not someone else is one of us. It means knowing that Americans are all of us.

Until all of us remember that, there cannot be an America for any of us.