Who Gets to be American?

I woke to three stories this morning.

1) Law enforcement cleared the Standing Rock protest, deploying armored vehicles, significant use of force, and apparently injuring a number of the protestors.

2) The Bundy Brothers were acquitted for their armed takeover of the Oregon Wildlife refuges. The jury, apparently, “appeared swayed by the defendants’ contention that they were protesting government overreach and posed no threat to the public.”
3) At a debate in Illinois, this exchange took place:

Tammy Duckworth, the Illinois representative and Purple Heart veteran, can trace her family’s history of service back to the Revolutionary War.

While Duckworth’s mother is from Thailand, her father’s family has been in the United States since before the country’s founding. During a debate Thursday night, Duckworth used her family’s contribution to American military service to warn of the dangers of war.

“I forgot that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” replied Senator Mark Kirk, the Republican incumbent.

Duckworth, a Daughter of the American Revolution, did not dignify that with a response.

As I read the news, I kept thinking about identity, nationalism, and hierarchy. Indigenous people defending land taken from them are met with a militarized response. White folks claiming “rights” over federal lands, while armed, are dealt with peacefully and acquitted by a jury of their peers. A sitting senator looks at an Asian-American and scoffs at her (true!!) claims at being part of the American story since before the founding of the nation.

Lots of work to do to expand “American” to be more inclusive.


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