Blood Equity, Heritage, and American Values: Hard Won or Otherwise

A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one, and that high sanction of his destruction has been an enormous factor in promoting Indian massacres. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man…. Capt. Richard C. Pratt, Founder Carlisle Indian Industrial School

There have been several Op-Eds creating some off-the-wall arguments about Americans, American culture, and DNA among other things. There are a number of common threads binding these Op-Eds together. Starting with the total lack of knowledge about genetics, culture, and for that matter American history.

Consider Kathleen Parker’sGetting Bubba:

Full-bloodedness is an old coin that’s gaining currency in the new American realm. Meaning: Politics may no longer be so much about race and gender as about heritage, core values, and made-in-America. Just as we once and still have a cultural divide in this country, we now have a patriot divide.

Later she says:

What they know is that their forefathers fought and died for an America that has worked pretty well for more than 200 years. What they sense is that their heritage is being swept under the carpet while multiculturalism becomes the new national narrative. And they fear what else might get lost in the remodeling of America.

The problem is, this leaves out a lot of other Americans who have fought and died for that same vision. Native Americans fought alongside US troops in the revolutionary war. In point of fact, the US has had Native American allies in every war it has ever fought. An interesting piece on NPR explores the experience of Native Americans in Boarding Schools – schools such as those run by Capt. Pratt. This quote symbolizes the experience:

“Saturday night we had a movie,” says Toledo. “Do you know what the movie was about? Cowboys and Indians. Cowboys and Indians. Here we’re getting all our people killed, and that’s the kind of stuff they showed us.”

It’s also the kind of stuff they were taught in history class. One could say the same about most ethnic groups. African-Americans have also fought in US armies in every war we have fought. They, like the Native Americans, have made important contributions to American culture yet when a person of with some African-American genes in his ancestry runs for president this is what happens. The problem is that “…an America that has worked pretty well for more than 200 years…” has ignored and belittled the contributions of most of it’s members.
The history of humanity is the history of migration – any physical anthropologist or archaeologist could point you to hundreds, if not thousands, of studies documenting the intermingling of cultures and peoples during the course of the last 50,000 years. American history is no different. Medved uses this to weave a glittering fantasy of freemarket capitalism and DNA creating the noble American culture that is, well, not French, or something. He seems to be arguing that immigrants are plucky, aggressive, and adventuresome. Consequently, all their DNA is American and therefore we have some sort of competitive edge against outsourcing and the loss of all our manufacturing jobs. We may all be unemployed soon, but thanks to our superior DNA, our dopamine receptor systems will still be superior.
I don’t take either column seriously and I don’t think the Medved and Parker do either, rather they seem to be laying the groundwork for the Republican attack on Obama.

5 Responses

  1. If Medved is trying to lay the groundwork for a Republican attack on Obama, wouldn’t it be undercut by the fact that Obama’s mother is the descendant of European immigrants and his father is not a descendant of a supposedly servile African brought over as a slave but of a Kenyan with the get-up-and-go gumption to travel to the University of Hawaii to enroll as a foreign student. Plenty of pluck, adventurousness, and aggressiveness on both sides of his family tree, seemingly, so, according to Medved’s theory, Obama must have the Right Stuff, DNA-wise.

  2. Medved’s a hack, pure and simple. Obama’s immigrant father can be explained away by some other hack, or ignored altogether.

  3. What is interesting about arguments like these is, it’s not so long ago that both blacks and Native Americans used the argument that they’d fought in wars to defend the US, alongside many other people, and that on that basis, they should, at the very least, be granted the same rights and privileges as everybody else. True, they were often segregated and/or “invisible”, but the records are there, and they were often treated shabbily, just the same. One result of this push for the rights and privileges accorded to every American citizen is, that there is now a “black” person running for President. There are still large numbers of people who resist this in various ways, including, unfortunately, large segments of the Republican Party. As for that Obama t-shirt, about all I can say is, it’s in some of the most excruciatingly bad taste I have ever been unfortunate enough to see for a good long time. If that guy had used his brain, he would have known that, even unintentially, such a t-shirt has racist implications.
    Anne G

  4. I scanned an article, some time back, about immigration and the difference in how it is seen in Europe versus the USA. The point was made that the Europeans where the ones who stayed home and the Americans were the ones who emmigraged. Basically Europeans expect immingrants to go back home, but we expect them to settle in. Maybe something to that.

  5. A few thoughts from a non-American. Firstly Afarensis wrote, “studies documenting the intermingling of cultures and peoples during the course of the last 50,000 years”. Much longer than that I’d guess. From even before Australopithecus evolved.
    Secondly. Political aspects of immigration provide hours of amusement. The Ozzie politician Pauline Hanson used to bleat on about “the real Australians” but her most bitter attacks were reserved for the Australian Aborigines. They’re not real Australians? I presume you get the same idiot ideas in the US. Real Americans? Definitely not the people whose ancestors lived there before 1492.
    By the way. Latest conspiracy theory doing the rounds here. The Clintons are organising the following: Obama will be elected president, with Hillary C. as Vice president. Obama will be assassinated because arms manufacturers and oil companies will not appreciate peace breaking out around the world. For God’s sake, he’s actually going to talk to Ahmedinejad and Castro, possibly Hamas. Hillary will then be president and it will be back to business as usual.

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