After reading historian Howard Zinn ’s book A People’s History of the United States for the first time close to 40 years ago I became somewhat radicalized. With fresh, skeptical eyes I began to question the version of history that I, like so many others, had been taught in school.
Not long afterward I came across Dee Brown’s magnificent 1970 book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which “chronicles the history of American expansionism from a point of view that is critical of its effects on Native Americans. The government’s dealings are portrayed as a continuing effort to destroy the culture, religion and way of life of Native American peoples.”
After that, I did a deep dive into the history of slavery in the United States and was left appalled, angry and disillusioned by what I discovered. Our government really condoned this type of shit? Yes, it did, and while laws have changed, the residual effect of the treating of my people as less than human is still institutionalized in parts of the country and will take a few more centuries — not decades, but centuries — to be completely eradicated.
It was then I realized my dear ol’ Uncle Sam — an image I’d been taught to respect and venerate as a child — was indeed a sick old son-of-a-bitch. The more I read, the more I understood that this old coot was infected with racism, sexism, homophobia and a host of other ailments caused by unaddressed and untreated hatreds. I began to detest him and everything he symbolized.
Why, I wondered (sometimes out loud), should I celebrate the founding of a country that had so brutalized so many people — and most often people of color? Poor whites oftentimes didn’t escape unscathed; they too were victimized and brutalized. It’s about class, almost as much as race.
It was around that time the mantra of “America, love it or leave it” came into usage by people who wrapped themselves in the flag, as they called out anyone who questioned the wrongness of how some citizens were being treated. They rebuffed any changes to the status quo mainly because of their privileged position of presumed power. They yearn for the “good ol’ days” when white male hegemony was virtually unchallenged.
And, for a brief moment, after visiting nations in the Caribbean (where persons of color ran everything), I was seriously considering taking the bigots up on their offer: To get my ass out of this racially oppressive country.
But then, via more reading, I took the next steps in my philosophical/moral/spiritual awakening. In a moment of profound clarity, it struck me: Rather than leave my dear ol’ sick Uncle Sam (whom I had once dearly loved) on his deathbed, I should join in with others that were attempting to resuscitate him — to save his life. I wanted to help make him healthy, rid him of his “isms” so that he could live up to the ideals of fairness and equality he historically stood for.
So, instead of leaving America, I wanted to change America, and I once again began to love my native land after realizing that my forbearers did most of the heavy lifting to build this country, to make it what it is, and so America is mine too. Indeed, more mine than many who have come after. I’ve got centuries of real skin in this game.
Sure, America was founded by rich old men so greedy and venial many of them would sell their own flesh and blood (offspring that resulted from the forced sexual relationships they had with their slaves) to other slave masters so they wouldn’t have to constantly look at the result of their beastly behavior. The Founding Fathers had lofty ideas about the kind of country they wanted but, with a few exceptions,, they also had feet of clay when it came to personal morals.
Nonetheless, they came up with a Declaration of Independence that still stands as a model for others seeking to establish democracies. And the document even contained the phrase, “All men are created equal.” Oops, how did that get in there? My goal is to make America live up to her written promises — to all citizens.
So, amid all of the hoopla, fireworks and self-serving speeches by crass politicians, I used the Fourth as a day to rededicate myself to the task of saving the life of my dear ol’ Uncle Sam, because there are forces in America attempting to kill him off and replace him with an orange-haired dictator. And make no mistake — the reactionary forces of evil are gaining more strength every day under the current Washington regime. Their goal is to normalize hatred, terror and rightwing propaganda. And if the press is muzzled, all is lost.
Yes, fascism can take root here in America too if we’re not ever vigilant about protecting the rights granted to us by the Constitution. Now is not the time for sleeping; now is the time for us to step up and offering true resistance; now is the time to restore Uncle Sam to complete, bias-free health.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.