We Are America
How quickly we forget...
Homo sapiens originated some 200,000 years ago. We survived the time of beasts much bigger and stronger than us. There are still a few predators bigger and stronger than humans around, but that is only because we allow them to linger. We have become the beast. Though physically meek, our brains have made us superior. A tiger may feel in control in its environment, but we control its fate. One snap of our fingers and it is no more.
How did this shift happen? Undoubtedly, our ancestors joined forces, perfected weapons, and altered environments, which led to this domination. We largely put aside the competition, grew in number, and advanced to a point of critical mass. The pack got too big, so we split into many herds. We then grew into tribes and nations. Instincts took over. Conflicts arose. We began killing each other en masse.
Thousands of years later here we are, desperately trying to outcompete and assert our superiority over other nations and dominate our kin. Because if all humanity originated in Africa, then we are one race. Safe from other predators, we fear one another. We envy others and their success and blame them for our misfortune.
And now, we've gotten to the point at which it might just take a small provocation, or an excuse, or an okay from powers that be, to start disposing of those who are part of our own tribe, but nonetheless different enough. All we have to do is allow a new definition of what it means to be American; one that fits the agenda, whatever the agenda may be. They say history teaches hard lessons, but I'm not so sure, as we always seem to cycle back to the evil of the past. We progress, then regress.
America: a melting pot, a place of new beginnings for everyone, a refuge for people of different nations, cultures, religions, races, and languages.
America: a land of misunderstandings that feels exclusive, all knowing, all powerful, and paranoid.
My wife and I were born in Poland, but we've lived in the US for over 20 years and it is hard to imagine making it somewhere else. This is our home, but we sometimes feel like outsiders. We've been US citizens for well over 10 years, but I am reminded of my alien origins every time someone asks me if I'm Russian or makes a derogatory comment. I speak fluent English, but have a foreign accent. I'm keeping it. I Am America.
My wife, son, and I love camping. Upon arrival to our campsite at a state park last summer, we were greeted by a Minnesota family taking their time leaving. Checkout time passed, but we allowed them to linger as they waited for their kids to get back. When the knife wielding woman peeling an apple found out we're originally from Poland, she proceeded to tell me a dumb Polak joke. I'm beyond amazed why she would think I want to hear about myself being portrayed as intellectually inferior to whoever the hero was. There was something about shit in it too. Polaks got shit on. I'm a year late saying this. We are Polish Americans. We Are America.
My friend's parents once attended the same banquet as Dan Coats, a recently sworn in Director of National Intelligence and former US Senator from Indiana, who upon hearing their accents inquired if they're legal residents. They've been here for 30+ years. They are US citizens. They Are America.
One of my colleagues is Sudanese American and Muslim and was harassed by two students at our school on that fateful Wednesday for her black skin, foreign accent, and Muslim beliefs. She is one of the most kind and caring people I know. She's been a US Citizen for over 30 years and her adult daughters were born here. She Is America.
Three days ago, I read this article about a winning robotics team of 9- and 10-year-olds hearing "Go back to Mexico!" yelled at them in the parking lot by their competitors, because of the color of their skin. The team comprises of two African American and three Latino students. They Are America.
Many transgender individuals have been harassed or attacked by cisgender people in public bathrooms. No single documented case of a transgender person attacking a cisgender person in a public restroom exists, but the bathroom bill does in North Carolina. They are human. They are our kin. They Are America.
There are white Americans who came here from Europe and they forgot. They forgot they were aliens once. They forgot they used force then to grab what they vow to die for now. They forgot how they dealt the American Indians deceit, painted trails with blood, and forced the withered prairie grass bereft of Bison upon them. Anishinaabe, Apache, Aztec, Dakota, Inca, Lakota, Maya, Sioux and countless others were American long before any of us showed up. They Are America. But we keep marginalizing them, because the oil must flow.
The stories go on and they beg some questions...
What gives us the right to force our will and way of life onto others? What makes us think it is okay to tell others what to do? Do we even have a legitimate claim to this land and the power to decide who stays and who goes? Why are we behaving like a beast that instinctively eliminates would be discomforts, threats, and rivals?
We've become marvelous at getting what we want by any means necessary. We impose our will on outsiders. We restrict our own citizens. At the same time, our politicians talk about Freedom and the American Way of Life. The American Way of Life? 25 years here and I have no clue what that is, other than some bullshit rhetoric passed off as Our Ideals. Land of the Free (to leave if you don't like it or be deported)? Come on...
I know this though. Brown, Black, White, Mexican, Polish, Nigerian, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Gay, Straight, Trans, Born or Naturalized, Documented or Looking for a Better Life; We Are All America.
Do we spread this message enough in our schools or do we just wait for the storm to pass?
You have the power to change the world. Use it often.