A look ahead instead of mere idle complacence

Posted by Tom Camfield

“True Americanism is opposed utterly to any political divisions resting on race and religion.”—Henry Cabot Lodge. Or perhaps as apt to chew on, the words of Theodore Roosevelt: “The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”

The other day I met my great grandchild, Claire, for the first time. She’s a year and a half old and will hit 2 about the same time I turn 90.  She was born in Korea and will be growing up as an American. I wonder by just what ridiculous justification she might be referred to as Asian-American as her life moves on into adulthood. She actually should be envied by her school classmates in years ahead for having direct access to her mother’s knowledge of southeast Asia. Many kids in America’s high schools today couldn’t find Korea on a map—and see no reason to do so, even though it’s big in the news today. 

If Claire were Black here in the U. S. and even a third-generation or more native-born, she’d automatically be referred to as African-American in this still-racial society that loudly claims to be not-so. That doesn’t make good sense. However, Claire, being half-Korean (and one-quarter “Jewish-American”) won’t stand out so easily in a crowd. She may be accepted much like Donald Trump’s wife Melania, born in Slovenia—who looks every bit as “American” as Donald’s grandfather who came from Germany. And Donald’s son Barron is not known as Slovenian-American. That’s white supremacy for you.

The underlying question to all of this is, “just what IS American?” My father’s earliest American ancestors reached this continent in 1620 and the direct Camfield line arrived in 1635. My mother’s Calhouns reached these shores about 1710. Are those such as Donald Trump or yesterday’s newest arrival from Mexico some form of lesser being by virtue of they or their families having belatedly come into our country to take advantage of a paradisiacal society wrought by those who preceded them? My Camfields had 250 years as Americans before the first Trump arrived as an immigrant from Bavaria, Donald’s grandfather, in 1885.

I’ll try to do in a coming blog a synoptic historic reminder of true ownership of this continent that dates back thousands upon thousands of years.

Meanwhile, somewhere on the streets of Baltimore and Chicago  are likely more than a few Black kids who are Americans of long standing, whose ancestors seven or eight generations ago were brought to this country as slaves.  They are in danger of being shot to death at any given time—often by some authorized brute in uniform who takes upon himself the empowerment of a superior whiteness that is the cancer still eating away at the body of our society. This murderous racial bias is energized and enabled, in my opinion (and that of many others) by the antics of Donald Trump in the presidential spotlight.

That is why some professional athletes, mainly Black, will refuse to stand in reverence of an anthem to the American flag prior to the football game I will be watching on Sunday.  I myself, also don’t choose to fully endorse a flag that has partially become a convenient totem serving a self-anointed god such as Donald Trump. A cowardly sort who attempts to take our respectful gratitude to those who have fought and died under this flag and apply it to himself through mere lip service. I am a wartime veteran (1951-’53). I continue to salute the flag at military events and respect it thoroughly in that regard. And as most of you know by now, I detest Donald Trump.

Over all, our flag should be a symbol of hope and reassurance, much as the Statue of Liberty. And despite current tattering around the edges by the uncivilized among us, it still retains that basic honor and is worthy of esteem.

Count me as part Black, Mexican, Muslim, Indigenous or whatever by self-adoption as I try to cling to a proper American image. I can’t change my skin color, but I can maintain a mind not eroded by self-imposed ignorance and dominated by self-serving greed and an unjustified ego. 

I’ve been around the block, through the grind—and could write a poignant memoir. But it would be little noted or long-remembered in this ever-more madcap world cursed with the blight of over-population. Of more significance is how my great grandchildren will endure what is being wrought by our current generations. Their placement by the fates has positioned them to experience and learn much.

For those young ones such as Riley, Clare and Sage surviving to middle age, I continue to fear that massive changes to the planet will have begun to turn human society into a regression toward troglodytic times—and even increased virtuous intent will be less and less able to stem an unceasing tide of inequality. That in turn will beget despair and want, paranoiac envy and violence. Revolution undoubtedly will take many forms.

One thing that does seem incongruous to me is that in all the American history I have read of early colonial times and on though the early 20th century, I found no mention of homeless people in any significant numbers.

Our Jefferson County is one lucky place for the likes of most of us here today. We’re a pretty good example, still, for the  rest of the world when it comes to social conscience. However, even we are struggling to keep up.

This blog got too long, so I’ve shelved the second half for later.

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