Understanding Patriotism in a Divided Land

American-flag-America

When Colin Kaepernick decided to “take a knee” in protest of the injustice meted out against African Americans and other people of color, in spite of the words of the Pledge of Allegiance that in this land, there is “liberty and justice for all,” he set off a manufactured cry of outrage from people who said he and others who knelt were being unpatriotic, that they were disrespecting the American flag.

With self-serving, over-the-top sanctimony, those who did not like what Kaepernick was doing offered deep pain that anyone would disrespect the flag and therefore, their country. With equal passion, they claimed loved for the flag and the country – though many of them also hail and respect the Confederate flag, a flag which is an “in-your-face” reminder that there are people living in this nation whose ancestors committed treason against the United States of America.

Those who wanted slavery were willing to go to the mat to protect their state’s right to own slaves and they were incensed that the federal government – i.e. “big government,” would dare step in and tell them what to do.

Confederate flag

Neither the North or the South wanted slaves to be free, nor did either side believe that blacks were equal to whites. Only when it was apparent that the North needed more men to fight in that ghastly and deadly war did Lincoln free the slaves.

Freeing the slaves and adding manpower to the Union ranks was helpful, clearly, but the fact of the matter is that those in the South didn’t care a hoot about the “United States of America.” No, southern states pulled out of the union and fought against “America.” The Confederacy had its own president, its own headquarters, and worked to have its own set of laws and rules.

Lincoln hovered over the “United” States of America to save the union; this country was one, not many, he said, and those who would destroy it must be stopped. He didn’t care about their flag, their president or their intended values.

When the Civil War was over and the North had won, there was foundationally no more “Confederacy.” The United States had won; this had been a war with two sides – with the United States fighting against its enemy – states that no longer wanted to be a part of the union. The southern states had committed treason by fighting against their own country, but that very sentence is scarcely ever uttered. Yes, there was and is a “southern” heritage, but at its core it is anti-American, anti-federal government, anti-“equality for all,” which is what the United States stands for.

That being the case, it is a little puzzling to hear rabid, self-avowed racists and white nationalists scream “patriotism” as those who have opted to stay in this country, work in this country and fight for this country exercise their First Amendment right to protest against their government. They are not fighting to get out of the Union; they are kneeling to make the union become a better place for all of its citizens. They are protesting because they love the words and the sentiment behind America’s founding documents. They are protesting because they believe in the America that the anthem’s first verse reflects  and which the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution describe.

They love the country enough and believe in it enough to risk criticism as they in fact criticize what they see as an egregious wrong.

They are not committing treason, as did the Confederate soldiers did and as white nationalists, who are railing against the foundational beliefs of this country are doing.

They believe in “liberty and justice for all.” They are hoping “taking a knee” will make people think.

They are being patriotic in a land which has been divided because of race from its birth.

A candid observation …

 

Our Slip is Showing

In the “old days,” women would wear slips under their dresses and/or skirts; to not do so was considered a violation of proper modesty. The slip could be whole or what was called a “half slip,” which was, as the name indicates, a garment that hung from the waist down.

Half slips were notorious for not being cooperative. You would get what you thought was your size, and the slip would be fine for a while, but sooner or later the elastic around the waist would wear, and the slip would not stay in place.

In variably, the slip would hang below the hem of the skirt or dress, and some other sympathetic woman would whisper, “Your slip is showing.”

I thought about that as I have been watching what has been going on in our government. Our foundation is one which was built on racism and sexism. Though we were purported to be a democracy, the Founding Fathers seemed to have disdain for the idea of too much power coming from the people. This government was always about elevating and keeping some in power, and about keeping other people down. According to Howard Zinn in A People’s History of the United States, four groups of people were not represented in the Constitutional Convention: slaves, indentured servants, women and men without property.” (p. 91) Even at the inception of this “great democracy” the value system was firmly in place: the rich were to run the country and to maintain their power and increase their wealth by exploiting the working poor. Writes Zinn: “the Declaration functioned to mobilize certain groups of Americans, ignoring others.” “The American people” was never the masses, but was really the small group of wealthy, white, male landowners…”We the people,” a phrase coined by Governor Gouverneur Morris did not mean Indians or blacks or women or white servants.”

Charles Beard, a 20th century historian, wrote in his book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution  that “the rich must, in their own interest, either control the government directly or control the laws by which government operates.”

If we read and study this history of America, we might not get quite as agitated as some of us are in the present day as we watch what is going on in our government. We are abiding by traditional American political history. That history is not a stellar one; it is fraught with discrimination and bias, with government allowing for and even sanctioning those who do what they think best in order to keep the moneyed class in power, to keep the oligarchy intact.

And while it has not gotten as much attention as the escapades that have been going on in and around the White House, the sexism that was written into our Constitution is rearing its ugle head as well. The House constructed a health care bill that is sure to have devastating effects on many, including women. In their work to craft this bill, a picture appeared having only white men in the White House, deciding whether or not maternity care and mammograms should be considered to be “essential” health issues to be covered under the Republican bill. (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/03/trump-health-care-summit-white-guys)

As this administration barrels through proposals that will hurt so many people, it seems that her slip is showing – a slip which includes her racism, sexism, and paternalism at the least. With these people in power, poverty will increase, as will mass incarceration; voting rights are in danger of being seriously compromised, and anyone who challenges the policies stands the possibility of being sanctioned. These people in power are not unlike, it seems, the Founding Fathers, who envisioned a country run by a small group of wealthy white men who controlled everyone and everything.

The slip which is America’s undergarment has been soiled by the dust that comes from such injustice, but it is America’s legacy. Those in power do not worry or care about if the slip is showing, but, rather, only that it stay in place in order to maintain – or in this case, regain – the status quo.

It’s called “making America great again.”

A candid observation.

What is an American…Christian, Really?

I am stunned by the rhetoric being spouted against Muslims here in America.

I am stunned that major GOP candidates are leading the pack and I am stunned that American …Christians …are buying into it all.

What is an American Christian, really? I grew up thinking, having been taught, that Americans were the best; we had the best morals, the best values, the best ideas, the best government. I grew up believing, erroneously, it turns out, that America’s very founding documents touted the belief that “all men were created equal.”

I grew up completely immersed in the statement made by our Statue of Liberty, and her words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” I thought it was glorious to have such representations of human rights in my country.

I coupled that with the version of Christianity I was taught: that Jesus was love, that Jesus reached out to “the least of these” and rejected nobody. I cherished this religion which seemed to embrace the notion of a loving God, who was, in the end, non-judgmental, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good.

So, my world, my created, fantasy world, was shaken once I began to read about the discrimination, hatred and violence carried out in this country by …American Christians. Where was the belief in the Constitution? What about the words spoken by Jesus in the Bible? It began to seem to be all a sham. White American Christians, too many of them, were too ready to either practice racial hatred against blacks and Jews and whomever else was to be targeted at a given time, and the notion of “all men being created equal,” I read, meant only white men. I read that the ships on which white people brought Africans to the Americas had religious names, including Brotherhood, Integrity, Gift of God, Liberty, and Jesus. (From There is a River, by Vincent Harding, p. 3)

It seemed that even whites who thought such thinking was against Christian principles as stated by Jesus were reluctant to say anything, and so they remained quiet. Racial hatred was OK; God, they suggested, was a white man who wanted America to be a “white man’s country.” Therefore there was no problem, no disconnect, between the way white American Christians treated people of color.

So, the Islamophobic rhetoric we are hearing today ought not be disturbing. American Christians, led in the GOP bid for the presidential nomination, are accepting and embracing the horrid words and suggestions being offered by Presbyterian Donald Trump and Seventh Day Adventist Ben Carson, who says he loves the Bible.

Which Bible?

Because of what happened in Paris, Trump, the Presbyterian is suggesting actions that are reminiscent of Nazi Germany, South Africa …and Palestine. Separate people; brand some as bad, inhuman, unworthy of respect. Do it to protect others.

It is a heinous thought and scary. How many people, innocent people, will suffer from civilized, non-violent terrorism, which is all that Trump is suggesting? This feels like a sort of McCarthyism, all over again. And the supporters of Trump, Carson, Rubio, Christie and Cruz are on board.

When Barack Obama was elected, people said America was “post-racial,” but that was far from being true, and the fact that this anti Islamic rhetoric is rising by the day is evidence of it.

Did God make a mistake? Did God mean for the world to be just white people?  I don’t believe that, but it seems that a vast number of American Christians, white American Christians, believe that. They find no disconnect at all between discriminating against and oppressing people of color, and the dictates set forth by the American Constitution and the Holy Bible.

So, someone tell me. What is an American …Christian, really?  It’s time to stop wading in idealism, and look at our country and its touted religion squarely in the face. Because it seems that what I was taught about both democracy and Christianity …are sorely mistaken.

A candid observation …