Monday, June 2, 2008

Oh No You Don't!

Oh no you don't, Kathleen Parker. The Chicago Tribune columnist thinks she's got the goods to define "full-blooded American" in a not-so-veiled attempt at discrediting Senator Barack Obama.

In May 15th's "The Bubba Vote," Ms. Parker tries to convey the point of view of the undereducated folk:

Full-bloodedness is an old coin that's gaining currency in the new American realm. Meaning: Politics may no longer be so much about race and gender as about heritage, core values, and made-in-America. Just as we once and still have a cultural divide in this country, we now have a patriot divide.

Who "gets" America? And who doesn't?...What they know is that their forefathers fought and died for an America that has worked pretty well for more than 200 years. What they sense is that their heritage is being swept under the carpet while multiculturalism becomes the new national narrative. And they fear what else might get lost in the remodeling of America.

Republicans more than Democrats seem to get this, though Hillary Clinton has figured it out....Some Americans do feel antipathy toward "people who aren't like them," but that antipathy isn't about racial or ethnic differences. It is not necessary to repair antipathy appropriately directed toward people who disregard the laws of the land and who dismiss the struggles that resulted in their creation.

First, it's lame to try and hint that Senator Obama (he's a U.S. Senator!) is anything but all-out American. That his father was Kenyan only adds to his story. His mom and her family come from old America. (Only she came from the inclusive, non-racist American line). Obama's ancestors on his distaff side fought for this country, and just because he hasn't served in the military isn't a negative. That's just who his is as a person. He has only high praise for those who did serve their country in this capacity. He acknowledges veterans every day on the campaign trail; that he also is advocating another type of service that doesn't require picking up a gun is a good thing.

I come from a family that goes way back in America. Not only did we have folk here before and during the Revolution, but on my grandma's side we're part Native American--that's about as American as you can get. Whether that's "full-blooded" or not is another matter, and frankly, the whole "full-blooded" thing is annoying. Nobody is "full-blooded" anything if you go back far enough.

I have blonde, blue-eyed cousins who look as Nordic as the next person with their natural coloration, yet they have Native American ancestry on both sides of their parents' families. You wouldn't know it by looking at them, yet they are proud of this wonderful aspect of their heritage and are some of the more open-minded people I know. One has married an African-American, another a Vietnamese immigrant and the third is unmarried. And gay:)

So, I don't take kindly to some right-wing racist hack writing that "full-blooded Americans" are at risk of being overwhelmed by our embracing the other, especially those folk South of the border. We're all related after all.

Regarding the gun issue, I received one for my 12th birthday (a 20 gauge with a poly-choke), my reward for passing a hunter's safety class. My maternal grandfather was a gunsmith (though his great-grandfather wouldn't carry arms in the Civil War and instead drummed and served as a medic). Some people just aren't made to shoot at people. It's a good thing, don't you agree? What's important, I think, is if you choose to have them then responsibly owning guns...not foisting them on inner city youth or smuggling them to outlaw factions, etc. The right to defend yourself is universal.

And regarding the religious question...my foreparents came to this country for religious liberty, not to have someone else's notion of salvation crammed down their throats. I'm tired of Bobby Jindal and his right-wing conservatism that narrowly defines America as "Christian." Yeah, the most common faith of the first settlers here was Christianity, although many were non-believers, pagans and freethinkers among them--not to forget the Native People. All Christians certainly did not agree or belong to the same denomination. There were Jews and other minority groups here over 250 years ago for goodness sake, and so to solely cite the Christian heritage of this country is incomplete.

When Senator Obama was recently "adopted" by the Cree Nation, one blog poster complained that he was probably part Indian anyway. Guess what...many Americans are. What some don't realize is that there was a lot of mixing among peoples before and after this country came into being. My recent family comes from the Midwest where the Native American tribes in Northern Indiana(mostly Potowatomi) were run out of the area by white folks--based on a racist presidential decree--even though most were church-going people trying to live in peace with the settlers. They and their French Catholic priest were marched West to the other side of the Mississippi River until they reached Council Bluffs. Many died along the route.

(My hope is that the open-mindedness and diversity of opinion demonstrated in the recent Iowa caucus demonstrates the diversity of its culture, no thanks to the post-Civil War Washington administration that advocated this other trail of tears.)

Do most Americans realize that Native Americans weren't given the right to vote until the 1920s? That Native Americans were forced to send their children to boarding schools away from their families and culture? It's not surprising then to understand that many Americans with Native American heritage just blended in to the rest of America and passed for "white" and all its requisite privileges. They are a vast part of middle and western America. My own grandmother grew up not knowing she was part native American, but her husband learned the truth from her father. It just wasn't talked about with regular frequency. Who could blame them for the standard social prejudice among those with power was that whites were superior. That's not how I was raised.

Why am I babbling on about colors and such? I guess it's because it irks me when someone hints that a "Bubba" might not get it that the African American sitting next to him had ancestors who fought in the Civil War or the Revolution for that matter.

It's not that by choosing Barack Obama we are relinquishing our past, we are merely hearing a fuller narrative. It was Barack's white forefathers who fought for this country, but there were people of many different hues and faiths who built the United States of America.

We shouldn't fall prey to "who's more American" than another. We need to preserve American ideals of truth, justice, freedom, tolerance and democracy while stiff-arming narrow biases be they imported from Eastern Europe, the Middle East or south of the border.

What needs to be preserved is the right for individuals to be themselves and not forced to embrace one sanctioned faith or version of this country's heritage. Because while we're at it let's rewrite the history books and tell the whole truth. For example, to many Custer was no hero; his men cut off body parts of their victims (including women). Was he any more full-blooded American than Sitting Bull? It depends on your perspective.

We don't need to make these wounds deeper, but with knowledge and understanding, we can realize the real America of which we're all a part. And of course to all get along and grow a brighter future, we must work to make the future a more decent one for everyone.

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