Just out of pure dumb luck, I was born in a racial majority in a relatively free country. The vast majority of the privilege that I have enjoyed, and still enjoy, I did not earn. I’m very aware of it. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take advantage of it. (You’d be lying if you said you wouldn’t too, if you found yourself in this position.) Sorry. It’s an ugly, uncomfortable fact.
And then, too, out of pure dumb luck, I find myself living in one of the most financially vibrant places in the world. The cost of living in the Pacific Northwest is outrageous. It can be a struggle to keep your head above water here. But when you do… oh, when you do… it’s delicious. There, I said it.
I did nothing to deserve any of this. I know it. I admit it. I’m not proud of it. But there you have it. I haven’t actively stolen anything. I haven’t committed crimes or hurt anyone. I have worked hard all my life, yes, but things have been handed to me, and I’ve taken them. I’ve also had fewer hurdles to climb, which means I’ve had a lot more energy to carpe that diem.
The most uncomfortable thing about living in the Pacific Northwest is what I call the Great Unsaid. How did we come to be here, in this fruitful place, where the salmon run and the trees push ever skyward? How did no one else notice that it’s rainy, yes, but the summers and winters are mild, the food is abundant, and the land is beautiful? How did we manage to just move right on in and set up camp?
That’s the thing. People had noticed. For centuries, the indigenous people here had thrived, had cleared large swaths of land to live upon. They had hunted and fished and celebrated and established communities and waged war amongst themselves long before Europeans set foot on this land. I think it would have been a great deal harder for us to move right on in had our timing been a little different. We’d have sailed up to this place at its height.
But no. By the time George Vancouver cruised these shores in 1792, what he found was utter devastation. Whole villages wiped out. Bones stacked up in houses, bleached bodies scattered upon the beaches. Death. Misery. The few people left alive were poverty stricken, weak, refugees unable to defend their ancestral lands.
It seems that smallpox broke out during the American Revolutionary War, and it swept the country from east to west, and from Mexico to Canada, devastating entire communities as it ground on, finally arriving like a tsunami on this coast, only to be snuffed out by the Pacific Ocean.
So there you have it. Luck again. Europeans cruised up to an area where as much as 95 percent of the population had been conveniently wiped out by a disease which, by the way, these same Europeans had visited upon their shores. They moved right in. They built upon the bones of those who had been here before.
We may not like to think about it, but everything here has been built upon bones. A very opportunistic phoenix rose from someone else’s ashes. And here we are.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to be the first president? I mean, the first, ever. In the history of the world. No pressure, right?
George Washington was quite a character. First of all, he was hellbent on making sure that no one mistook the presidency for a kingdom. He absolutely refused to wear outlandish, royal clothes. No thrones. None of this fancy stuff for him. He was not a vain man. He didn’t want to be perceived as superior to the people. He wanted to be considered a unifier.
He spent a lot of time traveling, talking to the people. That’s why so many places can claim, “Washington slept here.” I guess you could say he slept around. In that way, the presidency hasn’t changed much. But it definitely has in other ways.
For example, Washington had a staff of two, as opposed to the thousands that are on staff today. Granted, he didn’t have the population, or nearly as much need to be an international player, that the position has now. Back then, you could walk right up to the White House door and knock without being tackled. People picnicked on the White House lawn. Those days are gone.
According to Wikipedia, Washington was also the first (and last) president to ride at the head of an army to suppress an insurgency. He did so during the Whiskey Rebellion.
I can sort of understand why people were so upset. Here’s this federally imposed tax on a commodity that was often used as a trade good in lieu of currency, when they had just fought the Revolutionary War because of taxation. But governments can’t operate for free, so Washington had to nip that in the bud.
Speaking of nipping things in the bud, I’d like to put to rest two rumors about Washington that seem to persist. First of all, he never had wooden teeth. I mean, hello. Wood expands when exposed to moisture, and who wants to risk splinters in their mouth? No, his extremely uncomfortable dentures were a combination of ivory and human teeth. While they often looked brown, that doesn’t mean they were wooden.
The other myth is that Washington was foul-mouthed. Not only was he not prone to cursing, even though he often had good reason to, but he prohibited cursing amongst his troops. All his writings indicate that he was a dignified man, not inclined to outbursts. He would have sooner died than utter the words “pussy” or “shithole”. In fact, according to NPR, he swore by a set of precepts called the Rules of Civility, as taught to him by Jesuit instructors, which included the following: “Use no reproachful language against any one; neither curse nor revile.”
George Washington was an honorable man. He’d have been horrified by Trump’s language and behavior. He would be sickened by Trump’s mocking attitude. It would have never occurred to him to ask for a military parade in his honor, and he certainly wouldn’t be upset that people did not applaud him when he thought they should. Washington was not about being worshipped or adored. And Washington would never, not in a million years, have dodged the draft.
George Washington was far from perfect, but in terms of ethics, morality, dignity and class, you might say that these two presidents are, indeed, centuries apart.
Eight years ago, almost to the very day, I met an amazing young lady named Martine. She is a rare gift in my life, one of those instant connections. I knew right away that we would be friends.
The reason I know when we met is that a few days afterward, Haiti experienced its most devastating earthquake, from which it is still struggling to recover. I immediately contacted Martine, because she is Haitian-American. My heart broke for her as I watched her go for weeks not knowing whether her relatives were alive or dead.
She could have chosen to collapse under this pressure and do nothing. But I’ve since learned that that’s not who Martine is. She will always be part of the solution. She decided to raise funds for Haiti, and I am proud to say that I joined her in this effort. It was exhausting for me, so I still can’t imagine how she did it while going to college full time.
Since then, I’ve seen her graduate, and take on jobs of ever-greater responsibility. I’ve seen her prioritize her health, both physical and emotional. I’ve seen her make some pretty hard life choices. Martine is intelligent and strong and beautiful inside and out. She has integrity. She is one of the reasons I have hope for this country’s future.
If America were designed to Donald Trump’s sick, twisted specifications, I would never have met Martine. We wouldn’t have accepted immigrants from “shithole” countries like Haiti. And oh, we’d be much the poorer for it!
According to this article, were it not for Haiti, we would not have been able to make the Louisiana Purchase, and this country would be one third smaller. Haitians have also contributed to our culture through food, music, dance, and art. They’ve even provided us with our Major League baseballs, and what’s more American than baseball?
There’s a Haitian Scientist working at NASA. Haiti has also provided us with untold numbers of doctors, lawyers, and engineers. They fought beside us in our revolutionary war, and we left them to fend for themselves in theirs.
Today, more than ever, I am ashamed of America for allowing our current leader to represent us. I can think of few people that could symbolize this country in a more despicable way. I want to apologize to the entire world, and tell them that this racist, lying, misogynistic, semi-literate, war-mongering ignoramus is not who we are. I want to tell them that most of the American people would never presume to describe any country as a shithole. Most of us would never brag about grabbing pussies. Most of us care about the environment. Most of us care about the health of our fellow human beings.
And believe me, most of us wish this man had never been elected. I hope that some day we will look back at this administration, bow our heads in shame, and promise to never, ever sink so low again. As with the earthquake in Haiti, it will probably take many years to repair all the damage that Donald Trump has caused. But with Americans like Martine, I have hope that it will be not only possible, but highly probable.
Yup, that actually came out of a coworker’s mouth the other day while we were discussing the Boston bombings. And I must admit I went off. I couldn’t help it. I’m so sick of the ignorance and bigotry. This is what I said to him:
“Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Naturally his response was, “Huh?” To which I replied, “Do you seriously think the Muslims are the only group with a lunatic fringe, a mentally deranged and evil element? Seriously? Okay, then how do you explain the following?”
Adolph Hitler was a Catholic.
Pol Pot was a Buddhist.
Stalin, responsible for the execution of hundreds of thousands of people, went to a Greek Orthodox Seminary.
Pinochet was a Catholic.
Vlad the Impaler, torturer of thousands, was Christian.
Baruch Goldstein, an Orthodox Jew, perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounding another 125.
Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park Bomber, was Christian.
Ted Bundy was a Methodist.
James Holmes, the shooter in Aurora, Colorado, was Lutheran.
David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, called himself a born again Christian.
Sampson Kanderayi was a Christian who killed more than 30 people to appease evil spirits.
Andrew Kehoe, a Roman Catholic, blew up 45 people, 38 of them children, in a school in Lansing, Michigan.
Wade Michael Page, the man who shot six people in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin last year, was a devout Christian.
Robert Oppenheimer, who oversaw the Manhattan Project which produced the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly killing 150,000 men, women, and children and many many more in the years that followed, was interested in Hinduism.
Jeffrey Dahmer was baptized into the Church of Christ, the religion of his childhood, after he went to prison.
The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, was an atheist.
Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters, was Lutheran.
Ivan the Terrible was Russian Orthodox.
Charles Carl Roberts IV, the man who shot all the Amish school girls, was a member of the Faith Church.
Torquemada, the poster child of the Spanish Inquisition, was, of course, Catholic.
Timothy McVeigh was a Roman Catholic.
Adolf Eichmann was raised Lutheran, and was an active member of the Evangelical Church until 1937.
Mao Tse-tung, who was responsible for 40-70 MILLION deaths, was an atheist.
Genghis Khan prayed to the Burhan Haldun Mountain, and consulted Buddhist Monks, Muslims, Christian missionaries, and Taoist monks.
Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, was Catholic.
And how do you explain the following?
The vast majority of the participants in World Wars I and II were not Muslims.
In Rwanda, where the rivers have run with blood, 56.9% of the population is Roman Catholic, 26% is Protestant, 11.1% is Seventh-day Adventist, 4.6% is Muslim, 1.7% claims no religious affiliation, and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs such as the Jabiyan ethno-religious belief system.
Angola, home to one of the most brutal civil wars in history, is a predominately Christian country.
33 people died in the Salem Witch Trials, which were conducted by a Puritan government.
Very few Muslims resided in America during our Revolutionary or Civil wars.
The vast majority of the owners of slave ships that transported slaves to the Americas were Christians.
The Aztecs hadn’t even HEARD of Islam, yet still managed to perform their human sacrifices.
Apartheid in South Africa was perpetuated by the Afrikaner minority. This system was responsible for the death of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Afrikaners are predominately Calvinists.
At least 110,000 Iraqis have died since we Americans declared war on them. Some say it’s more like 1,033,000. 4,486 US soldiers were also killed. Our main justification for that war? 9/11. The number of Iraqis who were involved in the attack on the World Trade Center? 0. Another justification for that war: weapons of mass destruction. The number of weapons of mass destruction found? 0.
The murder-suicides in Jonestown were conducted by the People’s Temple Cult.
It was Christians who gave blankets infected with smallpox to the American Indians.
It was the US Public Health Service that intentionally misled 399 black sharecroppers into thinking they were being treated for their syphilis when in fact they were not. (They wanted to see how the disease would progress. Nice, huh?)
The Crusades were started by Pope Urban II.
When the Chinese tried to stop opium from being brought to their shores by the British, the British started the Opium Wars.
Germans slaughtered 10,000 Nama in South West Africa.
11 Australian men, 10 of European descent and one of African descent, slaughtered 30 unarmed Aboriginals, mostly women, children, and old men, like they were dogs. It was called the Myall Creek massacre.
Do you still think the followers of Islam have cornered the market on murder and violence? Give me a break. We’re equally bad. And equally good, but that’s a subject for another blog entry.
So the next time you’re tempted to spew your Islamophobia, at least now you’ll have some facts, which means you’ll have to admit, at least to yourself, that what you’re trying to convince yourself of is actually nothing but hatred and ignorance. No culture is composed entirely of saints or completely of sinners. Stay stupid if you want to, but at least have the backbone to own it.