In recent years I’ve felt like two parts of my identity have been hijacked from me.
The first is my identity as a Christian. The second is my identity as an American.
Now, the Christian thing is something I’ve talked about before, and my first awareness of it being hijacked was when someone from a different denomination than me, a denomination with slightly different beliefs, and a different piety, saw the cross on my lapel, and asked if I was a “real” Christian…as if the rest of us Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Catholics were chopped liver. And as if we weren’t here first.
And over the course of the past almost 40 years, the rise of these people, who use the catch-all term “Christian”, rather than saying what specific denomination they’re from, have made it very difficult for me to identify as a Christian without also having to say, “But not like them.” It has made me want to let people get to know me well enough to know that I’m not a self-righteous, loudmouthed, jerk before letting on that I’m an active churchgoer.
The American thing is a more recent development. It’s not as recent as the Trump presidency, but the hijacking of that identity, and those who hijacked it are one of the many elements that led to it. Actually, I’m still an American, but I find myself right now living in the bizzaro world version of it known as Murka.
Murka, you know…land of the arrogant, home of the fearful and xenophobic…you know…those people who call themselves Murkans. And for the moment, these Murkans have risen to the top, not like cream, but more like dead fish; leaving me embarrassed to admit that I’m an American, lest someone mistake me for a Murkan. Leaving me with second thoughts about wearing anything with the flag, or flag colors on it, lest someone mistake me for one of those arrogant Murkans who have hijacked the flag I once thought stood for something better.
And yet, if I’m honest, if I remember my American history, I have to admit that we’ve always had our Murkan moments. Even as I try to counter fear-mongerers by reminding them that FDR said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, I have to remember that that same FDR, out of fear…and racism…signed the executive order that sent thousands of citizens of Japanese descent to concentration camps.
I have to remember that even as Emma Lazarus was writing her poem The Great Colussus, from whence came the famous words “Give me your tired your poor” that are found at the Statue of Liberty, laws were being enacted that either prohibited or severely curtailed immigration from Asia. I guess we were willing to take the tired and poor as long as they were white.
I have to remember that my “family history”, with as much as we say we aspire to something great, and as often as we do attain a greatness that other nations look up to, is filled with many ugly and embarrassing moments as Murkans since 1776 misunderstood what making America great really meant.
I also have to keep in mind that as much as those Murkans seem intent on forgetting or ignoring the lessons of the past, there are many people out there who haven’t forgotten and who have learned. There are people protesting how we’re treating our Muslim citizens, and working to make sure that they don’t get treated like the Japanese under FDR. The press, which has not been silenced, is actively reporting on our misguided and inhumane immigration policy. There are people actively trying to carry on a civil discourse with those who refuse to be civil. And these people exemplify what I believe it means to be an American.
As much as they may want to deny it, I will grudgingly admit that those arrogant and misguided Murkans are my brothers and sisters while we work out this current unpleasantness.
And that, my friends, is what makes me an American…as well as a Christian…and I will wear my red, white, and blue to represent the ideals, and not the miserable failures.
Enjoy the 4th!
Enjoy the 4th!