The people today’s “conservatives” forget
I remember when one of my less enlightened staffers described the father of her part native-American niece as being “just off the boat.” Certainly the irony was lost on her that so-called Indians were here long before the white Christians arrived, and arguably, we are the interlopers in this land, not they. Setting that point aside, my staffer was actually quite accepting of others even if she was not the most adept at using non-offensive language, and her point is actually well taken, that we are a diverse nation with people of all stripes having children together. As my blonde daughter once pointed out, in the future, there will be no more blonde, blue-eyed Americans. Everyone will just be brown.
That might be overstating the case a little bit, but demographics are destiny, and America is headed in the direction of California, not Kansas. This is really what is driving the anger on the right, the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-anything that is not us rhetoric. There is a fundamental fear that the white males who have dominated our culture for so long are losing their grip. For some, unfortunately, the goal is not to increase the size of the pie for everyone. Instead, the policy has been to give more of the pie to the few, and at least this few look like us, not them.
Arguing with a MAGA supporter over this point is truly a waste of time, however. I think it is worth noting that aside from them getting the fairness argument wrong, and arguably getting what Jesus would have said wrong, they are also getting history wrong. There are a number of groups who have been traditionally marginalized who have made critical contributions to our nation. Without them, we would not be here.
Consider the following:
- African-Americans: Much has been written about the contribution of the African-Americans to our Civil War. This is, of course, the closest our country ever came to tearing itself apart. Lincoln credited the 200,000 African-Americans who served with helping to turn the tide of the war, making up approximately 10% of the Union army. But we also forget that patriot Crispus Attucks, the first person killed at the Boston Massacre and thus the first casualty of the revolutionary war, was black. Indeed, it was estimated by a German officer in the French army that a quarter of the Continental army at Yorktown was black. We don’t see that in any of the movies about that period, though.
- LGBTQ: This is actually the group that inspired this post. I used to say that making fun of gay people was the last socially-acceptable prejudice. Then, 9–11 happened, and gay marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court, and I thought I had it wrong. Now, it turns out we have a lot of socially-acceptable prejudices, we just added Muslims to the list. Anti-gay discrimination, it turns out, has returned with a vengeance. This negativity ignores certain important contributions to our country by LGBTQ people. I was reading the other day about Friedrich von Steuben, the Prussian military officer responsible for turning our revolutionary army at Valley Forge into a legitimate fighting force. The article I was reading mentioned that von Steuben was fleeing Europe, despite having had a distinguished background and military career, due to suspicions that he was gay. Without him, a gay man, then, it is hard to imagine our army defeating the British at Yorktown.
- Muslims: In the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Revolutionary War battle that forced the British out of Boston, the fatal shot of British Marine Major John Pitcairn was reportedly fired by a black Muslim, Peter Salem. He was one of a number of Muslims who were documented to have served in the Revolutionary War. In the Civil War, nearly 300 Muslims served on the Union side, with one rising to the rank of Captain, Moses Osman.
- Jews: Nearly 100 Jews are known to have served in the Revolutionary army, many of them undergoing serious hardship and torture as a result of their patriotism. And America is deeply indebted (no pun intended) to Haym Salomon, a New York Jewish financier who played a critical role in financing the Continental army.
These are just a few examples of the patriots we forget about when we call America a white, Christian nation. I daresay that most white Christians have not made the sacrifices some of these people have for our country. I would also argue that those who proudly display the Confederate Stars and Bars flag are waiving a flag of treason when we should be remembering the sacrifice of that diverse group of people who are responsible for giving us our freedom. Indeed, a number of our founding fathers, including Thomas Paine, author of the famed pamphlet Common Sense, and Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, had left Christianity for a type of nature-worship called Deism. As a result, any claim that America is a white Christian nation just does not hold up to historic scrutiny. Perhaps if we give more credit to the many groups of people who made it possible for us to be here today, it will be harder for those who hate the real America to make their case for exclusion.
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