I am a traitor: When will we say it? As the gauntlet is hurled before us in the name of traditionalism, how often will we pick it up and offer it back, so we can be mugged with it? We should say that we are traitors of one America, patriots of another: We’re traitors of the America of the banged gavel, the Salem stench, the hate that hates in the name of God, the America that declares war on its founding ideas in the name of America; we are patriots of the America of Jefferson’s eternal pursuit, Madison’s manifesto, memory’s mystic chord, our nature’s better angels, malice toward none and charity for all, and the promise America still seeks to fulfill that no deity could help loving even when we break it. We’re traitors, we’re patriots, we’re secularists, we’re Americans: and we acquiesce nothing.
Steve Erickson has written about politics forThe New York Times (“The End of Cynicism,” 1992), theLos Angeles Times Magazine (“American Weimar,” 1995) andRolling Stone (“A Nation of Nomads,” 1995), as well as two books about American politics and culture. As an editor at theL.A. Weekly from 1989 until 1993, he covered such stories as Bill Clinton’s first inauguration (“The Last-Chance President,” January 1993). He’s the author of seven novels, including the forthcomingOur Ecstatic Days from Simon & Schuster, and is also the film critic forLos Angeles magazine and the editor ofBlack Clock, a literary journal published by CalArts, where he teaches writing.