Saturday, November 19, 2016

Being American: from Mayflower to Me

I am a descendant of William Bradford, a man who fled religious persecution to become a passenger on a little immigrant ship called the Mayflower, and was eventually elected governor of Plymouth, Massachusetts. I am descended from pilgrims, pioneers, and countless strong women history has forgotten. My bloodline, and the sins and struggles and successes of my ancestors, runs deep in this land, and in me.

After the devastating election results stripped away my naive, white girl-glossed concept of a country moving towards Star Trek-esque unification and enlightenment, I realized that I needed to seriously examine what being an American meant to me. I believe that to become a truly worthy citizen, I need to much more actively nurture and defend the highest of American ideals in our nation--equality. Equality in human rights regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. In education. In wages. In safe water and living space. In dignity. There are so many areas in our society where the ideal of equality falls short to injustice again and again.

I have come to believe that injustices such as racism, xenophobia, prejudice, bigotry and fear of the other are not something we will ever truly kill in humanity. It is a Creature that we must face in the mirror every day because it lives in us. It is us.We must look the Creature in the eye and smudge it from the deepest corners of our heart by reaching outside of ourselves. 

Maybe you start by wearing a safety pin to declare your stance against all forms of bigotry and signify that you are a safe person to approach and ask for help. Maybe you move on to signing petitions and calling your political representatives to make your voice heard. Maybe you decide to get active in your local political organization before the 2018 midterm elections. Maybe you donate to the Center for Reproductive Rights,The International Refugee Assistance Project, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Planned Parenthood, ACLU, The Trevor Project, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or the Natural Resources Defense Council (Thanks, John Oliver!). Maybe you get more involved in your local community by contributing to food banks, or donating time and talents to organizations that assist immigrants, the homeless, and other marginalized people in need of a helping hand.

Whatever you do, don't let your indignation at injustice fade to a comfortable complacency. That is my worst fear for myself; sliding back into the lazy indifference afforded people of that pasty pink complexion labeled "white."

So I just joined the Monarch Society, the brainchild of a friend of mine. It is slowly shaping into a great place where people can share both national and local information about volunteer opportunities, political calls to action, and also their efforts to serve their community. I started with an email to my political representative protesting Bannon's appointment. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure how I am going to become more involved in my community just yet, but when I find my way, I will share everything I learn.

I've seen plenty of the Ugly American over this election cycle, and I don't believe there is any one true definition of the Ideal American. But I can try and be the Kind American to the vulnerable. I can be the Stubborn, Standing (even if it means I must stand alone) American when confronted by bigotry. Because I believe that the jewel of American ideals, equality, is not some twinkling far-off star tacked high in a gilded Trump Tower sky, but a promise meant to be grasped with two hands right here on Earth, right now.

Time to knuckle-down and get to work, folks.

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