I woke up this morning to a text from my grandmother in Bodéwadmi country - Ohio (from the Seneca ohi:yo, “beautiful everywhere,”). She was wishing me a “Happy 4th.” I told her I miss her and love her too but I didn’t wish her the same. I know she noticed. My grandmother is a farmer, and a Libra. She notices everything.
When I had woken up i nGaillimh to the american election results in 2016, I rang my gramma because I was shocked (and knew that even at 5 AM her time, she’d be awake), and she said, “Well, really this is nothing new.” That’s very true. American patriotism has always been a very thin veil for the zealous nationalism of a young, insecure country on very, very old soil. The recent events at its borders have woken up many who had previously bought into this propaganda, but I’m not sure how many outside of the american occupation-state are aware of the extent to which it is in fact just that - propaganda. I used to get a lot of flack for saying one of my reasons for emigrating was that I want to have children, and children are not safe in america. The most heartbreaking thing about the news there is that my grandmother was right about so much more than the presidency. This isn't new.
My grandmother is a farmer, and a Libra. She notices everything.
Children have routinely and systematically been kidnapped and tortured by the occupation-state I was born into for more than two hundred years. The most obvious example of this is the separations of families during chattel enslavement, which only ended in the 1860s - not that long ago. But another, more recent (and lesser known) example is Native children being taken forcibly from their homes to attend off-reservation "boarding schools" which literally bate their own cultures from them in an attempt to make them proper americans – to indoctrinate them into the propaganda. For perspective, this was done in a similar fashion to the suppression of Gaelic languages and culture by the English, but more extreme as the children were often not allowed contact with their families for long stretches of time. The "Indian boarding schools" reached their peak enrolment numbers (60,000+) in the 1970s and it's estimated that hundreds of thousands of children were subjected to these schools, which even beyond being a form of ethnocide, were rife with abuse. A similar atrocity occurred in Canada in the 1960’s, known as the « Sixties Swoop ». In other words, while white hippie children wore braids and feathers in the 1960s under the pretence of a cultural revolution; meanwhile actual Native children’s braids were being forcibly shaved off, miles away from their families, in the name of indoctrination.
Children have routinely and systematically been kidnapped and tortured by the occupation-state I was born into for more than two hundred years.
In 1938, a minister and Yale professor of Homiletics named Halford Edward Luccock gave a sermon to Riverside Church in New York City, and said the following:
When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled “made in Germany”; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, “Americanism.” The high-sounding phrase “the American way” will be used by interested groups intent on profit, to cover a multitude of sins against the American and Christian tradition, such sins as lawless violence, teargas and shotguns, denial of civil liberties.
For never, probably, has there been a time when there was a more vigorous effort to surround social and international questions with such a fog of distortion and prejudices and hysterical appeal to fear. We have touched a new low in a Congressional investigation this Summer, used by some participating in it to whip up fear and prejudice against many causes of human welfare.
You won't hear any pretense of shock from me about the situation. A minister had already predicted this with eerie accuracy in the early days of the second world war - there is really no excuse for shock. This is not new, nor even unexpected, if one has been paying attention to what goes on underneath america’s gilded exterior. What is shocking is the lack of outrage that this is not an isolated incident, but a cultural institution. It's as american as school shootings. This is by no means an excuse for apathy, but if I’m honest, I do have doubts that it can change.
When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled “made in Germany”; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, “Americanism.”
Deep down I was hoping I'd be proven wrong - I don't relish the fact that when I have children they'll rarely see their grandparents. And maybe I will still be proven wrong. I do remember something that happened the last time I visted my family. At my layover in eastern Three Fires territory (Michigan, from the Ojibwe mishigamaa, “large water/lake”), I ran into a grassroots politician from San Francisco, California. She and another lady (who was just a little younger than me, working at the airport) met in a shop. We passed our time chatting about hair care, what we do, and how we found ourselves there in the Duty Free section of the Detroit Metropolitan airport. When I said I’d emigrated because I didn’t want to support what I considered to be an occupation, she told me her life’s work has always been to re-build america completely, starting from scratch. The foundations were rotten, she said, they have never been tenable – so of course the structure is crumbling now. She was proud to be Latina and wanted more women and more persons of colour in government with her. The latter woman listened with interest, took her business card; she said had never considered getting into politics until then, because she’d always just been busy working. That seems to be a running theme, doesn’t it? Especially, she said, for a young Black woman from Detroit. I was quiet and listened. We all hugged each other.
When I said I’d emigrated because I didn’t want to support what I considered to be an occupation, she told me her life’s work has always been to re-build america completely, starting from scratch.
If that chat was any indication of things to come, then maybe my pessimism is without merit and my attitude has more to do with the sheer working-class whiteness of my upbringing than anything else. Women of colour built the country I came from, and moreover without consent, recognition, or wages; so imagine what can be built if their ideas as leaders were given their due respect. It is their country. It is not mine.
To end on a note of looking forward, what if “america” was actually what it said it was (instead of becoming just another Sasanna and worse, with daddy issues) - a colony that broke free of colonialism, a hybrid culture of immigrants standing equal on sovereign native soil and collaborating with its rising indigenous peoples to acknowledge and correct the wrongs of the past and build something better?
Érin Nic Coinnigh/ Erin Rae McKinney
Galway Anti Racism Network
4 Iúil 2018