1958, 1961, 2019, Bloomington Illinois, Greg Valentine, Illinois State University, Inequality, Internment Camps, MAGA, MAGA-ITS, Middle America, Normal Illinois, Oakland Elementary, Patriarchy, Saint Mary's Catholic Church, Theocracy, World War II
My America was lily white, with color only on the fringe. My America was a medium sized town five-hundred-fifty-five miles east of the 1958 dead center of the USA. My town abutted the university where my father taught. An ISU at forty-and-one-half degrees north latitude and eighty-nine west. A place all must concede is Normal. When I was born my town had thirty-six-thousand people. My family followed Illinois largest religion, Roman Catholicism. We said The Mass in Latin. I was most likely to see African Americans when we drove from our house on Birchwood Avenue to Saint Mary’s Church on West Jackson.
My elementary school, Oakland, was very pale. There were no African Americans in my neighborhood: None attended my school. Greg Valentine, a schoolmate whose house I passed when I bicycled or walked to school via the streets rather than slinking through people’s backyards in a rotation of childish exploration, was Asian. Japanese.
A scant sixteen years before my birth my country had concentrated his people in camps. We called our concentration camps internment camps. We concentrated them in camps for daring to be of Japanese descent while we warred with The Axis. My country had no internment camps for those whose ancestors hailed from other Axis Power nations. No camps for Germans. No camps for Russians, for Italians. My America had no problem justifying concentration camps for Greg’s ancestors. We were at war, and in war rights are often discarded in the name of national defense. Asians were easy to spot.
My America was red, white and blue. An America that knew we were all equal and that if you didn’t like how you were treated you should go back where you came from. Go back to Africa. Go hide in the shadows. Conform to our will: The will of the people.
My America insisted that we all could pick ourselves up by our bootstraps even as we tied “other” down. My America knew that men are men as God ordained and women man must not profane. Equality is good and fine, but just respect your place and mine.
My America was a lie. My America touted truth while punishing same. White-wash all, misdeeds must be hidden lest censure follow. Desire for equality will be doused with firehouse. Women bow down, bend over and take what you have coming. Desire for same sex is abhorrent. Illegal. Beneath contempt. Lie. Repent. Don gray suit.
My America has eroded. The rock that she was has been chiseled and altered and is being made into a fresh image. David emerging from Michelangelo’s stone. An image kaleidoscope in color, in inclusive, inching toward equality.
Speak not of our former glory, of our history that was blatant his story. Sweep not beneath the rug the inequalities that were and are. Let us build an America for all Americans, for those whose ancestors walked here to those who arrive today. Let us unlock the chains that bind and let us inch forward to an America which we can truly call great. Let us reject the lies and hate that insist that the path to a better America is a return to the past. A return to inequality, fear and People In Their Place.
The future beckons, will we answer her call?