I had never thought about ancestry much until Trump was elected. His fanning the flames of hate for the “other” reminded me that my family goes “way back” in America.
Far from that being a matter of pride being a white American is one of shame. I was thinking about this as I made a video talking about Trump while standing in a small military graveyard. I was also thinking about my family beginning with my son John who served in the US Marines and was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003 and 2004. He survived but nevertheless when I see a military grave I know my son could have been buried in one.
To put it mildly, because of my son’s service I’m both proud of him — though I disagreed with Bush over those wars — and keenly aware that our family has a stake in America’s future.
My wife Genie’s mother’s family – the King family – has as a great-great grandfather signatory to the US Constitution named Rufus King. According to Wikipedia, King (1755 – 1827) was an American lawyer, politician, and diplomat. He was a delegate for Massachusetts to the Continental Congress. He also attended the Constitutional Convention and was one of the signers of the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He represented New York in the United States Senate, served as Minister to Britain, and was the Federalist candidate for both Vice President (1804 and 1808) and President of the United States (1816). As the entry in Wikipedia notes:
King had a long history of opposition to the expansion of slavery and the slave trade. This stand was a product of moral conviction which coincided with the political realities of New England federalism. While in Congress, he successfully added provisions to the 1785 Northwest Ordinance which barred the extension of slavery into the Northwest Territory. He also said he was willing “to suffer the continuance of slaves until they can be gradually emancipated in states already overrun with them.” He did not press the issue very hard at this time. At the Constitutional Convention, he indicated that his opposition to slavery was based upon the political and economic advantages it gave to the South, but he was willing to compromise for political reasons. In 1817, he supported Senate action to abolish the domestic slave trade and, in 1819, spoke strongly for the antislavery amendment to the Missouri statehood bill. In 1819, his arguments were political, economic, and humanitarian; the extension of slavery would adversely affect the security of the principles of freedom and liberty. After the Missouri Compromise, he continued to support gradual emancipation in various ways.
King’s great-great granddaughter — Genie’s mother – was urged to join the Daughters of the American Revolution when she was a young woman serving with the FBI during WWII. She refused given it barred black women.
On my side of the family my mother’s ancestor was first mate on the second voyage of the Mayflower. His family name was Merritt.
With these connections when I look at my grandchildren I know that in Trump’s lexicon they’d count as “real Americans” as opposed to those “Bad Hombres” (Mexicans, blacks, Jews, Muslims etc., etc.,) “threatening” the “Judeo-Christian” White Race his fascist sidekick Bannon likes to fantasize about.
I also know that to be white and privileged in America is to bear the shame of racism. This lives on. A black man in a traffic stop by a cop is living in another world from mine. And in terms of our history people excuse leaders like Thomas Jefferson as mired in their moment in time. But as my wife’s ancestor proved and others too like John Adams and Abigail Adams, Jefferson had no excuse. Plenty of his contemporaries knew slavery was wrong even “back then.”
Jefferson raped a 14-year-old slave child then had children by her he kept enslaved. He sold some slaves and never freed any except his children—and only via his will after he’d died. Yet there is a monument to this white pig rapist—what else do you call sex between a grown married man and a slave child? — in our capital city.
Our history is one long fight against our evil. I thought justice was winning this fight. I still do. But Trump has set back the clock. He has dishonored America.
Post Trump America will need the equivalent of Germany’s Post-War Denazification Program (the Allied initiative to rid German press, law enforcement, judiciary, and politics of any remnants of Nazism). Trump, Bannon and the rest of these ignorant lying thugs (supported by millions of evangelical white “Christians”) have dragged us back in time and into the slime of the sort of White Supremacy pit that Jefferson lived in as he raped a black child.
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I am both privileged (I’m white) and “othered” (I’m transgender), and I am finding that as an individual, my best response to “Trump’s America” and other evils is much the same: I live my live as the best, most loving, fair, compassionate human being I can. There may be a moment or moments when something small (or even big) I do has some larger impact on those around me, but each act of kindness and goodness is a small bit of antidote against my own ill nature and can inspire those close to me. This is how a fire spreads, by individual acts, be they flames of hatred or love.
Well said, Brittany.
“Brettany,” please forgive the blasted autocorrect!
My mother’s father walked across all of western Europe from his small village in what was once called Ruthenia around the turn of the last century, learning seven languages along the way. Then he stowed away on a ship to enter America illegally. In an ethnic ghetto he met and married my mother’s mother who had come here legally from their same village half way across the globe. Together, they had 11 children, my mother being the eldest daughter who then helped her older brothers and my grandmother raise the younger siblings after my grandfather died when my mother was just 15 years old.
My mom quit the high school that she loved and went to work in a shop to help support their large, very poor family. My mom said that she and her brothers risked their lives to pilfer coal from railroad tracks and picked through the dump in Bethlehem, PA, to find some not-too-rotten food. She said some bakers and grocers were kind and laid their garbaged goods in a clean patch near the rest of the refuse, but some were cruel and so mixed the still-edible food in with the filth so that it could not be gleaned.
In her eighties, my mother volunteered for a Roman Catholic charity, St. Vincent de Paul, in Phoenix, AZ, and she would tell callers who were on government assistance but also still looking for private hand-outs how when she was their age, she owned two dresses, one for church and one for work. Her encouragement to these callers was thus beautiful in its understatement. My mother and father raised five children in their marriage of 45 years on low wages for most of their entire lives, but they never complained that this country owed them anything . . . even though my father served our country in World War II, Korea, and twice in Vietnam . . . and my parents were forever grateful for the great opportunity just to live here.
Can’t we all agree on this much, that whatever our ethnicity, gender, background, etc., anyone living in this country that still has both opportunity and freedom when compared to other places in the world is, in fact, “privileged.” Given that no one ever gets all the same benefits or blows in this life as the next person, what one makes of this “privilege” in living here determines to the largest extent what becomes of one’s life.
Indeed, some are truly unfortunate, but most are not. Together we could extend far more benevolence to the ones who really cannot help themselves than we ever will if we keep at each other’s throats.
How about we honor America by unclenching our fists and then rolling up our sleeves to help each other . . . not because the government makes us do it, but because we want to do it?
This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger.
I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your
magnificent post. Also, I’ve shared your website in my social networks!
I’ve only just found your blog on my Facebook feed. You put a voice to my feelings.. I subscribe to Dan Rather and Bill Moyers and Robert Reich. I’m a regular middle class white woman, 67 years old. I’ve always worked, raised three children, have 10 grandchildren and 7 great grand children. I’ve known challenges, but basically I’ve lived a normal life. I wasn’t raised in a religious environment, but believe in God and have known miracles to happen, and I pray for other miracles to happen. I don’t attend church, but am a member. I have a gay granddaughter who is beautiful and smart and kind and is in a happy relationship. One of my great grandsons is bi-racial and has the hearts of us all.
My son has married to a bi-racial woman. He has become entrenched in a evangelical church that helped him through his divorce and where he met his wife. He has practically disowned his gay daughter. His divorce was very difficult and he lives in a different state than the rest of the family. The election divided us philosophically, but I thought we were going to get past it intact.
I’m a liberal Hillary supported but could have easily voted for Bernie Sanders. Although, I think I’m intelligent, I don’t think I’m the smartest one in the room. That’s why I don’t understand why people I care about and have been friends with for 50 years and are intelligent didn’t see trump for the fool he is. I kept thinking there had to be something to him that I wasn’t seeing. Of course, now I know there isn’t, but I can’t understand why they can’t see it. The rhetoric has died down because they can’t really support him and look the least bit intelligent anymore.
I couldn’t understand their love for George W or their hatred of President Obama. I always thought I was missing something that they could see. You, Dan Rather, Bill Moyers, etc validate my thinking, my feelings, my earnest hope that trump is led from the Whitehouse in handcuffs. None of you make up cutesy names for him, but call him what he is, a deranged, lying buffoon.
I’m so glad I found your blog.
Hi Linda, You are way ahead of me–3 kids, 5 grandchildren. My wife and I take acre of 3 of them each day and love this part of our life best of all. Thanks for the kind note. I hope you keep reading my work. Best, Frank