Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My version of America

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
Rainier Chapter, in Capitol Hill.
Thankfully, I got an email from a friend this morning reminding me it was genealogy month and that I had said I was going to apply to join the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution).  She was more subtle than that, sending along a link to local chapters that she is thinking about joining.  Turns out there is one within walking distance to my apartment. 

Honestly, I have no idea what to expect from joining the DAR.  Do we get dressed up and have tea?  Do we stand together, holding hands, and sing Battle Hymn of the Republic in our most patriotic voices?  Do we sit through a boring meeting just for the sake of saying we belong to something linked to the earliest history of our nation?

I have never been particularly patriotic.  OK, not at all, really.  I begrudgingly stand up during the National Anthem at baseball games just because I don't want some drunk American to start yelling at me.  I don't know why this is.  I think I just feel so incredibly bad for being a white American, that I can't seem to muster up the pride for it.  I feel terrible about the Native Americans, the black slaves, the Mexican Americans.  I have a hard time reconciling feeling pride for a country that stole land, tortured human beings and took ownership of them. 

I can be pretty all or nothing in my thinking.  I have a hard time finding things that I love about America.  It's not that I am not grateful for what I have.  I feel incredible gratitude that I don't have to raise my children in a war zone.  But some Americans still do.  I feel blessed that I can feed my family everyday, but I live in a country that allows for so many to go hungry.  I live in a country where people think if you're on welfare, you can't have an iPhone.  As if, being poor means that you can't enjoy life, or have things that make life just a little bit easier and more enjoyable.  I live in a country where people believe that being on welfare automatically equates to being lazy.

We haven't walked in other's shoes.  How dare we judge someone else's experience?  Especially when systemically, things are not in place to make the playing field equitable.  I see people from where I grew up in Ohio posting degrading things about others less fortunate than themselves all the time, and it saddens me.

Then, it angers me. 

And then I sit and ponder the "great" country in which I live.  I ponder the greed, the inequities, the "I-Me-Mine" mentality of so many that call this country home...and I'm sorry, but I cannot muster up pride for that.

Feel free to correct me where my thoughts may stray, where my vision of this country is clouded by my individual perception.

For now, I try to remain as true to myself as I can, while living in this seductive land we call America the Free, Home of the Brave.  Trying to find a way to teach my kids that it is OK to give to others, that you don't have to hoard all of your resources and get more and more and more...there's enough to go around, if we all just open our hearts and give.

I really hope the DAR isn't a bunch of rich white people "giving back" just to assuage their white guilt and to hide from their white privilege. 


Anonymous said...

Some are forced into welfare by the system, some make choices that lead them there. If you wonder about your biases, ask yourself, where do you fit on that spectrum?

Melissa Baumgart said...

I wonder if you are assuming that I am on welfare?

Anonymous said...

You may be right. The only person I know on welfare also happens to be the only person I know who is in favor of welfare recipeints have fancy electronic devices

Melissa Baumgart said...

Interesting. I have always felt guilty for accepting any kind of assistance, be it institutional or from a friend. But then I was in the presence of a room full of compassionate women, talking about cultural competency and equity...and those women (none of whom were on welfare) shared this view that I spoke of in the post. That just because someone is poor doesn't mean they can't have a few nice things and enjoy life. What they shared was that, in their view, it allows the person that is struggling to get by everyday a sense of normalcy.

It was refreshing to be amongst people that didn't need anyone to suffer any more than they have to because of their financial situation. Most people I know that are on food assistance are hard workers, and trying to get on their feet. I don't personally see anyone that wants to be on assistance forever.

And it's not even that. It's also the fact that Americans wants everything to be "equal", but Americans aren't born equal.

Take this analogy for example:
If you gave three kids the same size box to stand on so they can watch a baseball game over a fence, those kids might still not all be able to see. There very well might be a height difference, so the tall kids gets to enjoy the game and the short kid just sees the fence. In America, we focus on giving everyone the same size box, so to speak. What if instead, we were more concerned with the view? What if we gave each of those three kids a box that suited their needs so each one could see the game? What if instead of assuming everyone is equal to begin with, we looked toward a goal of everyone being happy and healthy?

Would you blame a kid for being too short?

Countries where they have more of a "sharing and caring" attitude about the other humans that live there, have healthier, happier, longer lives. There's research out there to prove it.

To me, complaining about someone's phone because they are on assistance is not indicative of a culture that is sharing and caring. It is blaming and greedy.

Robert Terry (father) said...

You are truly a daughter of the revolution. I used to walk on streets named for other people's families until I learned the names; Fred, Alex, John, William, and John were names that led to the founding of this country, this experiment in democracy.
Those names gave me a birth right to a revoltion against "isms". Today when the psuedo patriot takes a jab at my freedoms of religion, race or national origin, I'm happy to remind them that their tea bag prop don't give them the right. Our family fought and gave their lives to free us from a ruling class. Be proud of that fact and I say join the DAR with the attitude of having no contempt before investigation. If you find you don't like their views let them know. Maybe, even fight to make it an honor to be a daughter of a revolutionary and not just a status symbol.

Melissa Baumgart said...

Thanks, Dad.
I love this part:
"Our family fought and gave their lives to free us from a ruling class. Be proud of that fact and I say join the DAR with the attitude of having no contempt before investigation. If you find you don't like their views let them know. Maybe, even fight to make it an honor to be a daughter of a revolutionary and not just a status symbol."

Especially no contempt without investigation. That's a great way to walk in there. Thanks for the reminder.

Carol said...

And maybe, just maybe, go in there and lead those DAR to a place of giving back what their ancestors took.