If we were having coffee, I’d be very excited to see you, since it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve had the pleasure of your company. Life has gotten suddenly a whole lot busier on the weekends, and in general.
I’m also be feeling a little sober and introspective, because the America that showed its uglier side last weekend isn’t the America I want to live in, or want my children to become adults in.
These two realities – the furthering of goals and dreams in my personal and family life, and the hatred and bigotry that has been revealed in our nation – are circling one another in my mind, as though they are a yin/yang symbol.
And maybe they are.
I know to my core that no one should be judged less worthy because of the color of their skin; whom they’re sexually attracted to or active with (so long as the object of the activity is a consensual participant); what faith they follow, if any; where they or their ancestors hail from; whether they have 2 X chromosomes, or an X and a Y; whether they identify as male, female, trans, non-binary, asexual, or potato salad; or any other external detail that doesn’t speak to the character of the person beneath.
Beyond that personal knowledge, I know that our Constitution entitles all Americans to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s one of the basic tenets upon which our nation is founded.
The Constitution is the document our president swears to uphold when he’s inauguarated.
And the current holder of our hightest office is reneging on that vow.
It makes me angry, even in the midst of personal good fortune. Americans deserve better. Jewish Americans should not be living in fear of armed and armored Nazis (neo or otherwise) marching in the streets, carrying torches and threatening their removal.
Americans – ALL Americans – are entitled by our Constitution to equality. To the degree to which equality is being denied, we are failing as Americans. The “white nationalist” movement may have co-opted the American flag and the phrase “real Americans” for their own purposes, but that doesn’t make what they’re doing patriotic or legal under the Constitution.
All American citizens are, by definition, REAL AMERICANS. It doesn’t matter whether you were raised on a reservation (what has been done to the first REAL AMERICANS in the creation of this country, by the way, is something that ought not be ignored when listening to those who insist that this is supposed to be a “white nation”), in Manhattan, in Alaska, Hawaii, the Midwest, or the Deep South. Income level and personal beliefs don’t factor into it.
All American citizens are real Americans. Period.
What is un-American in tone and practice is attempting to cleanse our nation of any of its citizens, or placing one group above the others, as though it has a franchise and right to be American that any opposing view does not.
That is, by its very nature, Un-American. It violates the very precepts our nation is founded upon, and it’s therefore the opposite of patriotism, no matter how many or how large the flags, or how many Make America Great Again slogans are plastered about.
America is great. As an idea, as an ideal, and as a nation. It doesn’t need to be made “great again.” It never stopped being great in the first place. Moreover, attempting to rip away the rights of any of its citizens based on their color or faith will weaken our nation. What can be taken from one group can be taken from any group, after all. Once the precedent is set, it’s hard to argue that it can only apply to others, but never oneself.
My thoughts have also been on the Confederate statues that are being used as a rallying point in this inflammation of racial bias. I understand the desire to erase the painful time in history, and to stop glorifying those who were willing to fight to continue to own human beings as property and deny them any right to direct the course of their own lives.
I also understand that this time in history did happen, and taking down statues can’t erase it.
But, as I see it, those aren’t the only two choices, and I wonder why so many people are choosing up sides as though it’s an either/or, all or nothing issue their side must win (in some cases, at any cost, even the lives of others).
I have another idea.
Why not leave the statues where they are, as they are – and, around them, create a learning area that discusses the biases that placed them there, and how we, as a nation, have grown beyone these ideas and injustices?
Near where I live in upstate New York is the Colonial-era mansion, Crailo, the home of the Van Rennselaer family of Dutch merchants. Catharine Van Rennsalaer married General Philip Schuyler, and they were the parents of Elizabeth Schuyler, who married Alexander Hamilton, America’s first Treasury Secretary.
When I toured Crailo last January, I was impressed that an entire floor is devoted to the experiences of those ensnared in the Dutch slave trade. This wholly unsavory time in the history of the Dutch merchants wasn’t being erased. Nor was it being romanticized. It was being given space, and treated with honesty, and those who once had no voice in their torture and enslavement now, belatedly, have one.