On Independence, Pride, and Shame
I'll keep this brief. Spoiler: He didn't
I'm proud to be an American. I am ashamed of our history, but I'm hopeful for our future. I believe in a free and a just society, but I see there's a disconnect in our country right now, where some things are free for me, but not for thee.
And other things aren't just, like the prison-industrial complex and for-profit prisons. Or publicly traded health insurance companies. Or that we literally have concentration camps on US soil right now.
During WWII, we had Japanese Internment Camps on US Soil. A nearby shopping mall and movie theater that I've frequented sits at a place that had 7,816 campers at the peak.
The Tanforan Assembly Center was one of seventeen temporary detention camps established by the U.S. Army to hold Japanese Americans forcibly removed from the West Coast until more permanent concentration camps could be constructed.
Tanforan was built on the site of the Tanforan horse racing track, and some of the inmates lived in the former horse stalls. Accommodating 7,816 Japanese Americans, it was the second most populous of the “assembly centers.” A shopping center sits on the site today; a small historical marker commemorates its World War II history.
Source: Densho Encyclopedia
The point here is that even in the Land of the Free, we can, have, and do believe some people to be less than others and will forcibly contain them.
Today we've got over 200 detention centers in the US, where 48% of detainees stay for between 2-4 years.
I'll digress here, but will leave you with some detention statistics to get a broader perspective on human rights violations in America.
Food for thought: The terms “concentration”, “detention”, “internment”, or “camps” are all just marketing based on connotation. If one of those sounds less bad or more good than the others, that is literally the goal: positive public perception.
I'm deeply grateful for the sacrifices that have been made in the name of freedom. Helping to liberate Europe from the Nazi regime was worthy and honorable. It's also important to remember that wasn't even 100 years ago. The ideology that some people are less than equal to others was not eradicated when the war ended.
And I'm also sorry for the sacrifices that were made in vain. If you had ancestors that died fighting for the Confederacy, they died in vain. They were not fighting for freedom. I acknowledge they were probably deeply complex people with unique thoughts, opinions, and aspirations, but at the end of the day, were willing to fight and die to keep Black people from freedom.
It's a tough pill to swallow, but I'm pointing it out because I care about the future of our country. I'm not happy anyone died in any war, I'm remorseful. Any death caused by the actions of another human being was preventable and that's the tragedy.
A sad reality is that America is founded on inequality. Baked into the Declaration of Independence is the depiction of Native Americans as “Merciless Indian Savages”. The land we all live on was taken forcibly at some time and one way or another.
While the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, who was free?
Not the slaves. Not the natives.
The Trail of Tears began in 1830 with the Indian Removal Act.
State and local militias forced Native Americans who were relocated to march to their destinations. The Cherokee removal in 1838 was brought on by the discovery of gold near Dahlonega, Georgia.
Reading this reminds me of the Death Marches from the Holocaust. Why is it we can look at Nazi Germany and easily see their flaws, but struggle so much when it comes to inspecting our own history?
To move forward as a nation, we need to look at how messed up our history actually is. How legality, morality, and corruption are all intertwined and twisted into justifiable evils.
Just that one quote alone sums up so much of what is wrong with our country. It was legal for a militia to force the Cherokee away because they wanted gold.
The natives couldn't vote. The slaves couldn't vote. The women couldn't vote.
Just the white men, that counted each slave as 3/5ths of a person for their representation in Congress.
To brush over the atrocities committed in the name of God and Country, is ignorance. To cling to those as necessary evils to get us where we are today is unspeakable. To believe in the flag of yesterday is Nationalism. To believe in the country of tomorrow is Patriotism. To love your neighbor is humanity.
We can and should do better. Progress is forward, regression is backwards.
Make America Great for Once and for All. Solidarity.