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What is "real" American? [Oct. 20th, 2008|06:52 pm]

Try this on for size, in a campaign year when one party is insinuating that a U.S. Senator is a) Muslim (a lie; he's not), b) Arab (a lie; he's half African, not Arab), and c) therefore (on the basis of those two lies) might be associated with Islamic terrorists.

Kareem Khan, a US Muslim, reacted to the 9/11 attacks by wanting to serve his country, and right after he graduated from high school, in 2005, he enlisted in the Army.  When he  completed training, he was sent to Iraq in 2006.

If his name had been Billy White,  who grew up Mormon, everyone would've said "Oh, what a patriotic, good, red-blooded all-American boy."

In  August of 2007, Specialist Kareem Khan, then age 20, died along with four others in his unit in an explosion destroyed a house he and the others were clearing. 

If his name had been Danny Brown,  who grew up Baptist, everyone would've said "Oh, what a patriotic, good, red-blooded, all-American boy--and he gave his life for his country."

How do you feel about Kareem Khan?   Are you thinking "Patriotic, good, red-blooded, all-American boy who joined up and gave his life for his country" or ....or something else?  Something you'd rather not say in public, maybe?

How much does someone have to do to prove he or she is a "real" American?    What do you even mean by that? 

Back when I was in high school, and JFK was running for the Presidency, some people ignored his legal status as "American" (by birth, like me, like some of you) and argued that because he was Catholic he wasn't "really" American.   They were afraid he'd let in the Inquisition or something.  He didn't.  Back before that, some people believed citizens of Japanese heritage could not be "real" Americans and put them in concentration camps during WWII...and stole their property.   In WWI, some people believed anyone of German descent couldn't be a "real" American.   In the 19th century, it was Native Americans who couldn't be "real" Americans, and then there's the whole sorry mess with African-Americans. 

Now we have people afraid of Senator Obama because someone told them he was Muslim, and they think all Muslims must be in league with the Taliban.   I have been told I can't be a real American if I'm a Democrat...that all Democrats hate their country and want to turn it Communist (yup--really happened.)  I have also been told I can't be a real Christian and be a Democrat.   But then, by some of the same people, I have been told I  them,can't be a real Christian unless I'm one of them and agree with everything they believe...which I don't.

Let's get something straight: any infant born in this country is a real American, as real as you can get.  That's what the Constitution says.  Any immigrant naturalized in this country is a real American.  Black, white, brown, pink, purple, spotted...born here, American.  Naturalized here, American.   Equal under the law except that naturalization is a bar to taking office as President.  (Not, you will notice, Governor.)  

Patriotism is a trickier term to define, as it has no legal definition.  In my books, someone who serves the country more than himself--and serves its highest ideals--is a patriot.   Military service alone (especially in times of conscription) doesn't suffice--but voluntary service, willing service while maintaining the ideals of the service, does.  Hence Kareem Khan: patriotic American boy who gave his life for his country, as many others have done, and who happened to be Muslim.   He wasn't patriotic because he was Muslim; he wasn't unpatriotic because he was Muslim.   He was patriotic AND Muslim--independent variables.

But there are other forms of patriotism.  Anyone working to make the country better, to live to the ideals on which it was founded--anyone striving to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic--is a patriot.   What are those ideals?  The secular ideals of 18th century Humanism, mostly, as developed in two centuries of struggle with harsh realities and engrained bias: not only the "self-evident" truth that "all men are created equal" but that all persons are created equal--that age, race, religion, sex, and disability do not affect that essential equality.    Not equal in size, strength, ability--but equal under the law, and equal in the sight of God (for those who are religious.)   In particular...equal as Americans, as I'm sure his comrades considered Kareem Khan equal as a member of the unit.   That people should not be prejudged guilty, and the accused should be able to know what they're accused of, and face their accusers, and call witnesses in their defense.  Previous centuries had given our founders ample evidence of why those things were bad, what abuses resulted.

In our two foundational documents (counting the Bill of Rights as part of the Constitution), in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself, we have for the most part solid, worthwhile ideals to build on.  But that can be (and is being) destroyed by those who--had they been alive at the time of the Revolution--would have fought for the king, and not this country.   Real Americans--my definition--are not defined by where they live or how they earn a living or how much money they have or whether they are religious (and which religion) or whether they've served in the armed forces or not--and certainly not by what political party they belong to.  They are defined by an abiding love for and care of this country's most precious possessions...those ideals, this land, these people. 

Anyone who qualifies under the law can be a "real" American: Christian, atheist, agnostic, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu...anything or nothing.  

I won't even say the lying scum who spread the lies about Senator Obama aren't "real" Americans since we have had scoundrels here since day one...but they are bad Americans, traitors to the ideals that founded this nation.   Racists, religious bigots,  those who lie for profit...can't redeem that by wrapping themselves in the flag.  Not when men like Kareem Khan shed the blood.


[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2008-10-21 01:09 am (UTC)
Hear, hear.
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[User Picture]From: bunny_m
2008-10-21 01:46 am (UTC)
Hear, hear!
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-10-21 03:32 am (UTC)

Re: Please send this to editors!

I couldn't agree more!
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[User Picture]From: duane_kc
2008-10-21 01:29 am (UTC)
Thank you. Thank you for saying this so much more eloquently than I could manage. May I post a link to this in my own journal?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-10-21 03:30 am (UTC)
Yes, of course.
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[User Picture]From: ann_mcn
2008-10-21 01:59 am (UTC)
Thank you! I am so disgusted when "real" is changed to mean "those who agree with me."

May I link to this? And yes, this should be widely published.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-10-21 03:31 am (UTC)
Yes, you can link to it.
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[User Picture]From: anysia
2008-10-21 02:26 am (UTC)
Since I tend to lean towards "liberal" and am a Democrat, I have been flat out called Anti-American, and even a traitor when I have point blank informed some self-righteous 'Good Christian' that spreading lies (Obama is a Muslim, an Arab, associates with terrorists etc) is against their own creed of 'bearing false witness'.

I am tired of being told I am "Anti-American Baby killer" because I believe a woman has the right to control her own reproductive life, and Pro-Choice. (I firmly and truly believe that a blastocyst isn't a life.Potential, yes, but not a person/life/baby.)

I read on a Fundamentalist 'Christian' site about this young man Khan dying, and right along with other posts by these same hate filled persons, they insinuated that he must have been a suicide bomber doing Obama's dirty work. Livid doesn't come close to how I felt. These brave souls, hiding behind their keyboards while someone else's child was killed doing what his country asked him to do had me seeing red.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-10-21 03:15 am (UTC)
If you feed on lies, the truth tastes bad. But dammit, it's the truth and it matters.

I've had the same attacks...heck, I had them when I still thought of myself as a conservative...but not THAT kind of conservative. Conservative to me meant conserving resources--you know, like water, air, soil, forests...that kind of conserving. And fiscal common sense--if you're bound and determined to fight and expensive war, have the guts to admit what it costs and pay for it up front, not on plastic that someone else will buy.
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From: badgermirlacca
2008-10-21 02:31 am (UTC)
I cannot help but wonder just what the folks who say that "if you're x you can't be a real Amurricun" think being American is.

Do they not teach history and civics any more? Or maybe I should be asking if they ever taught it, given that people of my own generation and older are saying these things.

This is why I believe that the human race really does have a lot more evolving to do before it can call itself human, because this kind of terrified tribalism and unwillingness to reason certainly doesn't qualify. I just hope we last long enough to do it.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-10-21 03:27 am (UTC)
I don't think evolution will help. It's not that humans lack the *capacity* to be better people. There are plenty of good people around. I know generous people, kind people, thoughtful people, etc. But privilege corrupts even faster than power (and they're not...quite...identical.) The people who have had, essentially, their own unacknowledged affirmative action program for hundreds of years have been corrupted and don't want to give it up. When I was a child, the term "free, white, and 21" was thrown around a lot by the big kids...the young white men who thought if they were "free, white, and twenty-one" they had a right to everything. It had a very different meaning for young women, because all we got was the right to vote--if we were white. The quotas in place for professional schools (medical, dental, law, graduate school) locked up 90+% of the places for white males except in a few schools for African-Americans. I knew women who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Rice University and could not get into med school--because only 5% or less of the medical school class was open to women.

And you still find people who think that's "natural."

Who think history and civics must be wrong, because is disagrees with what they learned at home.

Alexis de Toqueville wrote that the downfall of the young United States would be illogical fervency in religion (that's not an exact quote--my copy of De Toqueville has gone walkabout or is buried somewhere in here. He saw unthinking, wildly emotional religion as a huge danger. So did Heinlein. So have people looking at other religious groups--it's not the particular religion, but ANY religion that loses contact with reality.

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[User Picture]From: silverbackbutch
2008-10-21 03:05 am (UTC)
Thank you for your eloquence. May I link to this as well? You once again have taken my thoughts and crafted a marvelous description of a true American.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-10-21 03:11 am (UTC)
Link away.

I just heard, on the night news out of Austin, that a tactic they've used before was used this morning at one polling place--a man outside the polling place, with a clipboard and nicely dressed, was asking people--mostly older women--if they were voting for Obama. He gave them misinformation that--if followed--would have negated their vote (that if they voted a straight party ticket they would still need to vote separately for the Presidential candidate. Doing that wipes out the vote.)

Clearly, some people don't think us older women are American enough to be allowed to vote.
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[User Picture]From: neintales
2008-10-21 03:26 am (UTC)
Beautifully said. Thank you.
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From: rhiannonmr
2008-10-21 04:06 am (UTC)
Thank you for this.
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[User Picture]From: jowake
2008-10-21 01:50 pm (UTC)
As a non-American I agree with what you have written, but I do wish you guys would get on with your voting and get it over with.
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[User Picture]From: maystone
2008-10-21 03:22 pm (UTC)
Early voting has started in some states. If you think you're anxious to have this over with, just imagine how we feel :)
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[User Picture]From: wcg
2008-10-21 03:06 pm (UTC)
Well said ma'am. Thank you.

I hadn't realized until just now that you were here on LJ. Jim Hetley linked to this post, and I followed it over.

(I also know fair_witness. She can tell you about me.)
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[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2008-10-25 04:34 am (UTC)
I can indeed, though I didn't see this comment until now.

Elizabeth, this is the gentleman who advised me regarding what to say when we gave you Gunny.
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From: ghoulsis
2008-10-21 03:07 pm (UTC)
As an agnostic Unitarian Universalist, and a free-thinking independent who has been called un-American or a traitor more times than I can count... thank you.
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[User Picture]From: twilight2000
2008-10-21 08:25 pm (UTC)
What you've said is important. It should see a wider audience. I was linked to here and am not linking others.

Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: filkferengi
2008-10-24 12:54 pm (UTC)
Brava! Well and truly said.
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-10-28 04:22 pm (UTC)

We Should Not Be Dieing Fighting Over Our Fear of Other Religions

One day protesting for peace in Oklahoma City. An older gentleman stopped to try explain to us why we were fighting the war and why it can't afford to loose. He was being kind and considerate, he had fought in world war II and were really surprised that so many of us protesting were veterans also. But he thought we should understand that we were fighting the Muslims and should we loose, we would end up becoming Muslim.

I honestly believe that this is the real reason why most people support the war. Though they may not admit it or they haven't faced up to fear that rules their life. I admired this old man and his honesty, and he was being a kind and gentleman, not calling us names or anything like that.

As I always explain to those who give me the real reason why they believe we have to fight and win. I tell them, if someone tells you that you have to become Muslim, you should refuse, but those young men and women who join the military to protect the homeland and the constitution don't need to be fighting and dieing in another land because we are afraid that another religion will take over.

Roger The Okcitykid
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