Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Taking Our Country Back

I have found the political discourse (or what passes for that) facinating over the last few years. We have heard a thundorous roar from the right that they want to "take their country back." This, of course, raises some questions in my mind. Who are they taking it back from? How did they lose it to begin with? Just who are these people who want to take something from someone else and when did they get title to it?

The reality is that we live in a very diverse country and a country that achieved its greatness from its diversity. It is a country that was never really owned by anyone. In fact our early history is bound up in rebeling against outside forces who would lay claim to the the country and by the constant immigration of individuals seeking something new and something better. This constant push and pull created a dynamic tension that caused us to constantly try to be better than we were and to seek new vistas of opportunity.

Those who feel that someone took something from them are denying by that very claim the basic history of who we are as a people. No one has owned us or the country. We all share it--we even share it with the people we don't like, can't relate to and who disagree with us. It isn't something we can take or give. It is for all of us. How then can one portion of the country try to lay claim to it?

We can speculate what brought us to this point. We have seen a rising surge of immigration of those who look and sound different from the so-called mainstream American culture. Of course, at one poiont most of our ancestors fit that description to a greater or lesser degree. The only sub-group who could rightfully claim the country for themselves are the Native Americans who were, indeed, here first and who had to put up with a lot of trash from the newcomers whose decendents now want to claim the country for themselves. Then there were the large group of Africans who were BROUGHT here against there will and enslaved for several hundred years. Did they earn some ownership in the country for their troubles?

The sad reality is that most of our earlier influx came from Western Eurpoe whose people LOOKED a lot like the settlers who were already here. Today's new arrivals come from lots of other places and they often look very different. Would we be having such discussions over immigration if it were the Canadains who were coming across the border? Afterall, we haven't built a fence along the North Dakota border to keep THEM out! I can only conclude that much of the angst is built upon racial perceptions. My belief is stirred by the fact that most of this "take back our country" talk came with the election of a President of mixed race, something that took us forty four tries to acheive. The sad fact is that lots of people in this country are bothered by this and feel like "the others" have taken control. This is what fuels the paranoid and conspiracist "Birther" movement. Can you prove you belong here and how much proof is enough? This is probably close to what the Native Americans felt--except in this case no one slaughtered anyone. Change came as it is supposed to come, at the ballot box and a majority voted for a president who didn't look a lot like the preceding forty three had looked.And he had the audacity, not just to hope, but to have a strange name and an African father.

Now I have to worry about those who want to take their country back because I think they are trying to take it back from me! I like the rainbow quality of our country. I have traveled all over the world and we are in a distinct minority of countries who have worked this out peacefully. We ought to be celebrating what we are instead of fighting over how we think we used to be and trying to recapture a time when we weren't as open and welcoming.So I want my country back from those who are trying to take it from me-the narrow, the bigoted, the frightened. We are better than that.

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