Who are We as Americans?
As our movements begin the massive struggle to re-organize and prepare for four years of obstruction, resistance, and movement building, I am left with some questions with how we want to name this moment of who we are as a nation.
In many of these discussions people want to return back to our founding fathers language, the constitution, or the origin stories of our rebellion from England.
I listen but feel apart from these conversations. And when I was really truthful I had to admit that I was feeling a deep sense of unease.
This unease persisted even despite the fact that I don’t want to put a wrench in the messaging momentum that is so needed right now. In the wake of so many hateful executive orders now more than ever we must find an uplifting frame that is inclusive and not reactive.
That said. We also can’t erase history.
And to me the question of who we are as Americans, is also the core battle of how we want to resist this administration. And what is apparent in the dissonance of our time is that we are battling for the very origin story of the US.
I come from a place where I outright reject the colonial Manifest destiny exceptionalism that is at the heart of the US colonial settler state. We were not simply noble rebels to battled the terrible english, but also important is that the DNA of this country was a deeply rooted to the violent imperialist genocide of indigenous people and the enslavement of black folks. We used our origin story of exceptionalism and manifest destiny to not only justify these acts but also to continually steal land, resources, and labor for all who were not American. You can read an example of the inherent fascism here in this excerpt from John O Sullivan’s “Great Nature of Futurity.”
When I think of blood roots of American exceptionalism and the violence of the doctrine of Manifest destiny I have the tools I need to better understand where Trump’s and really white supremacy in this country is coming from.
In this light we stop acting out of surprise and outrage, but rather see these last gasps of white supremacy as part of a longer legacy of racism, colonialism, and xenophobia. I am not surprised but rather able to see clearly a lineage of violence but also a lineage of resistance.
In this frame we can then say with confidence but also with grief that yes, the Muslim ban is actually very very American.
From the inception of the US Settler colonial state there have been many violent laws and discriminatory policies against indigenous, black, and immigrant folks to protect and support the fears and anxieties of the white electorate.
I am all about doing what is expedient and will get us out from under the cheeto, but I just wanted to perhaps open the frame to this reminder, because, well frankly if we erase history we also erase potent previous strategies that other communities that were under attack used, and also an ability to really look our true origin story as a country in the face and move forward with integrity.
I am not sure we serve a next generation the best by continuing the moral certitude that comes from manifest destiny exceptionalism and instead hope we might strategize new ways of how we can address where we are from where we really are.
And again I am just simply raising questions to help folks marinate around some of the deeper issues surrounding this work. I don’t have answers, but feel that now may be the best time to ask deeper questions, before it is too late.