Civil War II

The second U.S. civil war began in 2015 as a war of words and the polarization of political parties. No one even took one candidate in particular seriously until he unexpectedly won his disunified party’s nomination. He rose on the back of extremism, repeatedly touting “the good old days” when words were countered with physical violence.  Voters watched in horror as the candidate’s xenophobic rhetoric turned to  phallic comparisons and graphic misogyny.  But many still supported him. Some embraced the candidate’s boldness, while others claimed that if elected, the candidate would quickly tone it down and become more presidential. But this was an election year unlike any we had ever seen, and I was embarrassed for our country. I was sure that voters on both sides of the aisle would have been able to see Donald Trump for the narcissistic autocrat that he is; it seemed pretty obvious to me. By October, though, it became clear that no one cared enough about violence, xenophobia, mysogynism, or even democracy. All of the Trump supporters I talked to wanted just one thing: to keep Clinton out, and even though she won the popular vote by more than three million, most voters seemed content to let the defunct electoral college rule the day. Instead of blaming Russia or gerrymandering, each political side was more than happy to point fingers at the failures of the other.

As 2017 unfolded with the White House in complete disarray, our commander-in-chief drew the battle lines. He was not to blame for the troubles besieging the presidency, he  of said,  it was Obama,  Clinton, or the Democrats.  Despite his demonstrated lack of leadership, like soldiers preparing for war, politicians fell immediately into a carefully strategized construction with one group on the right and the other on the left; the front lines running directly through the house and the senate. Continue reading

Let’s Talk Trump

I’m reentering the conversation.

First of all, let me be clear about my church membership. I haven’t left. I guess you could say I’m working my way back, even though I never fully left in the first place. If you were under the impression that I had left, I apologize that I wasn’t fully clear in my previous blog post. It’s just with so many active members vocally celebrating the election of a man who fell under broad LDS condemnation over his misogyny, racism, and general moral inappropriateness during his candidacy, I seriously needed a lot of space.

I could not even be in the same room as anyone in Utah talking politics after November 8. From that time, until the inauguration, the amount of angst I was experiencing multiplied. It got to the point where I studiously avoided Facebook, and I could not even retreat to the relative safety of blogging. I did NOT want to deal with any thoughts or opinions on the man many call our president. I still can’t bring myself say the words president and Trump in the same sentence. (Looks like I just did it–and to be honest, I didn’t like it at all.)

I really struggled with acknowledging the actual validity of this election, when it was so obvious that there was interference, and given the man’s penchant for taking pecuniary advantage of people, I’m sure there was money involved. After all, money talks, and people were listening, especially old white men. And if you are an old white man who is offended by that remark, I have just one question; why are you reading my blog? Continue reading

Teddy Roosevelt’s Definition of “American”

A couple of weeks ago, a friend posted this meme on his Facebook page. My attempt to engage in a discussion regarding TR’s statement was vociferously shut down by another “friend”, so my opinion appears as today’s blog post.

Teddy Roosevelt (“TR”) makes some serious assumptions based on opinion and misunderstanding of the human experience in this statement.   It’s a short statement, but it redefines the term “American,” changing it from an adjective describing a person’s place of origin or inhabitants, to a determination of patriotism.

When I asked what TR’s definition of American is, I had the tables turned on me.  I was asked how I define myself as an American.  I responded, “I define myself as an individual, part of many groups. I am also German, Jew,  American, Mormon, female . . . I don’t let those groups define me.” I define myself in many ways, but according to TR, there’s a problem with that.  He says that tolerance of people based upon race and place of origin “is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American . . . There can be no divided allegiance here.”

Crap.  I’m in trouble.  But I was born here, so does that mean I am exempt from these requirements of patriotism?

There are so many problems with TR’s definition of American.  As my Facebook friend points out, there are two widely accepted definitions of American. The first: “of or pertaining to the United States of America and its inhabitants.”  The second: : “a citizen of the United States of America.”  My personal definition of American aligns more closely with a less-understood, and more politically correct,  definition: “of or pertaining to North or South America; of the Western Hemisphere.” When we call citizens of the United States of America “Americans”  we are ignoring all other Americans including Canadians, Mexicans, inhabitants of the Central American countries, and all of South America.  We are so Eurocentric here that we forget that the people who actually belong to this land prefer not to be called American at all. We call them Native Americans or Indians.

Consider this story that was shared in my Facebook feed:

(I’m waiting in line behind a woman speaking on her cellphone in another language. Ahead of her is a white man. After the woman hangs up, he speaks up.)

Man: “I didn’t want to say anything while you were on the phone, but you’re in America now. You need to speak English.”

Woman: “Excuse me?”

Man:*very slow* “If you want to speak Mexican, go back to Mexico. In America, we speak English.”

Woman: “Sir, I was speaking Navajo. If you want to speak English, go back to England.”

I don’t know if the story is true (I hope it is), but the Navajo woman has made my point.  Our ancestors came as intruders. We pushed our way across the continent, removing the original inhabitants in any way necessary, and called it “Manifest Destiny.” I include the Mexican-American war in this implication.  What our ancestors did in the name of colonization and patriotism is not right.  It’s in the past. We can’t change it. What’s done is done. And now, TR tells us that “Any man who tells us that he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all.”

Part of my personal identity is that I am Jewish.  My grandmother came to the United States between the World Wars and decided that she would “assimilate.”  She left behind her religion and her culture in her attempt to become “American.”  She nearly succeeded too, except that her German accent always gave her away (to her chagrin).  Well, she never gave up European cuisine, and she did speak German to her German husband. Because of her accent, she reports that she was often on the receiving end of racial discrimination, especially during the Second World War.

My mother did not learn of her Jewish heritage until she was in her mid-twenties. And since that time, my mother and I have been working hard to relearn the customs and practices lost when Grandma “assimilated.”  To define what it truly means to be “in every facet an American,” one must consider where “Americans” come from.  Americans came here as political refugees who loved their country but could not safely remain because of differences in opinion.  Americans came here as slaves, captured like animals and chained in the underbellies of ships.  Americans came here as children of parents looking for something better. Others were told to assimilate to their new European oppressors or to stay on reservations.  Still others had their country taken away from them through acts of war, and are now being told they never had any right to be here in the first place. Today, most of us were born here, and many of us disagree with this so-called patriotism where we have to deny our parentage and live according to an “American Dream” that sometimes looks more like a nightmare.

Roosevelt’s assertion of patriotism is rife with logical fallacies, the most glaring is that of genetics.  He is claiming that origins determine character and that the only acceptable character is that of American.  He then asserts that one can deny origins, and forsake culturally defining characteristics to become American.  And the speech issue?  My grandmother spoke German and English fluently.  Was she supposed to speak English to her relatives that she left behind in Austria?  Should she have been writing her letters to them in English? Was she supposed to become monolingual even when she was tired, or homesick?  Wasn’t my mother missing out on a great educational opportunity by not being allowed to learn German?

I can think of ten arguments to this one particular statement.  But TR didn’t just speak out against immigration this once.  It was his battle cry for the remainder of his life.  And my battle cry is that of charity, the pure love of Christ, who told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and not only if those neighbors were legal “Americans.” If we can afford to reach out in love and share our abundance with others, shouldn’t we do it?