A real American: Part one

Published 7:00 am Friday, February 12, 2016

Reading a recent opinion column entitled “What makes a real American?” reminded me of the joke of a lady standing in line at the checkout in a supermarket in Phoenix, AZ, talking on her cell phone, in another language, while the man in line behind her in was listening. When she ended her call, he tapped her on the shoulder. ” Lady,” he said, “This is America. And here we speak English. You want to speak your language? Go move back to your own country.”
The lady looked right at him and said, “I was speaking in Navajo. And this IS my country. Long before it was yours, Mister. You want to speak English? Go back to England!”
Indeed, the 5.2 million indigenous people of our nation, most of whom speak English, still speak in their indigenous languages in their communities and in their homes. Real Americans? More like the only real Americans!
That ” Real American” catch phrase and the “Let’s take America Back!” slogan of the Mitt Romney campaign four years ago, (which was tea party code for the desire to exclude minorities, immigrants, and non-Christians from our nation’s central economic and political power) seem to be used by those who have forgotten that most of us are descendants of immigrants.
An emphasis on “multiculturalism” takes away from being an American? From the nation that’s been called a “melting pot” for the past 150 years? So whose multicultural background do we homogenize into being more ” American”? The Acadians of south Louisiana? The Inuits of Alaska? The Amish? The Russian Jews of Coney Island, NY? These diverse groups are all realAmericans. They are citizens, either born in the US, or naturalized. They pay taxes. And most of them speak English outside of their communities and families, and most of them will celebrate the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, along with their own cultural and religious celebrations.
For millions of people past and present, moving to America, and becoming an American, meant the opportunity to reinvent oneself; to develop a career or start a business; to participate in a democracy where every voice counts.
And yet the people who consider themselves to be real Americans have descended into the most apathetic and uninformed people in the world : where approximately 67% of registered voters don’t even exercise their right to vote; where one third of adults 18 and over cannot even tell you what the three branches of government are, much less know about the Constitution; where adults cannot locate Alaska on global map; where people think they’re informed by listening to sound bites and slogans through hate speech designed to manipulate for scapegoating.
See part 2 in next Friday’s Item.

Deborah Craig

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