Why I Love America


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Today saw the inauguration of Barak Obama as a second term President of the United States, a peaceful re-affirmation of his leadership of this country for the next four years. I was happy to see him sworn in, but I would have been happy to have seen Mitt Romney sworn in as well.

Why?

Because every time there in an inauguration I am reminded of how lucky we are in this country to have peaceful elections and transitions of power without bloodshed (literally, if not figuratively).

The swearing in ceremony and all of the celebration that goes along with it, is not celebrating any one person, but, to me, is a celebration of the greatness of our system of government as flawed as it might be at times.

That’s all I have to say tonight. I am so very grateful to be American. I am grateful to be able to vote. I am grateful to be able to express my opinion in public, on Facebook or in this blog.

Mostly I am grateful that I don’t have to fear for my life or the lives of my loved ones with every change in power in my country.

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Be Thankful, But Also Be Mindful of Our History


Massasoit Ousmequin

I grew up in the region where the “first Thanksgiving” took place. As a matter of fact, the great leader Massasoit lived in the area which is now Warren (my parent’s hometown) and Bristol (my hometown), Rhode Island.  I remember my grade school celebrations of that feast complete with Pilgrim hats and Indian feathers…everyone was part of one big happy human community. It wasn’t until I was much older that I even started to be taught the truth of what happened to the indigenous people of North America.

I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Having a day to stop and reflect on the things that we have in our lives that are important and meaningful is a good thing. However, wrapping it up in a historically inaccurate bow is an insult to the memory of the countless Native Americans who were displaced and slaughtered in the name of exploration, and settlement.

I’ve copied this post from the Huffington Post to share with you today. Be thankful for all that you have in your lives, but educate yourself and more importantly your children on what really happened on that day in 1621, and in the years following.

Do American Indians Celebrate

Thanksgiving?

Posted: 11/19/2012 4:41 pm

In thinking about my earliest memories of elementary school, I remember being asked to bring a brown paper sack to class so that it could be decorated and worn as part of the Indian costume used to celebrate Thanksgiving. I was also instructed to make a less-than-authentic headband with Indian designs and feathers to complete this outfit. Looking back, I now know this was wrong.

The Thanksgiving Indian costume that all the other children and I made in my elementary classroom trivialized and degraded the descendants of the proud Wampanoags, whose ancestors attended the first Thanksgiving popularized in American culture. The costumes we wore bore no resemblance to Wampanoag clothing of that time period. Among the Wampanoag, and other American Indians, the wearing of feathers has significance. The feathers we wore were simply mockery, an educator’s interpretation of what an American Indian is supposed to look like.

The Thanksgiving myth has done so much damage and harm to the cultural self-esteem of generations of Indian people, including myself, by perpetuating negative and harmful images to both young Indian and non-Indian minds. There are so many things wrong with the happy celebration that takes place in elementary schools and its association to American Indian culture; compromised integrity, stereotyping and cultural misappropriation are three examples.

When children are young, they are often exposed to antiquated images of American Indians through cartoons, books and movies. But Thanksgiving re-enactments may be their most active personal encounter with Indian America, however poorly imagined, and many American children associate Thanksgiving actions and images with Indian culture for the rest of their lives. These cultural misunderstandings and stereotypical images perpetuate historical inaccuracy.

Tolerance of mockery by teachers is a great concern to Native parents. Much harm has been done to generations of Indian people by perpetuating negative and harmful images in young minds. Presenting Thanksgiving to children as primarily a happy time trivializes our shared history and teaches a half-truth. And while I agree that elementary-school children who celebrate the first Thanksgiving in their classrooms are too young to hear the truth, educators need to share Thanksgiving facts in all American schools sometime before high school graduation.

Let’s begin with Squanto (aka Tisquantum), a Patuxet, one of more than 50 tribes who formed the Wampanoag Confederacy. Around 1614, when he was perhaps 30, Squanto was kidnapped along with others of his people and taken across the Atlantic Ocean to Malaga, Spain, where they were sold into slavery. Monks in Spain bought Squanto, shared their faith with him, and made it possible for him to find his way to England in 1615. In England he worked for shipbuilder John Slany and became proficient in English. In 1619 Squanto returned to his homeland by joining an exploring expedition along the New England coast. When he arrived at the village where he has been raised, all his family and the rest of his tribe had been exterminated by a devastating plague.

What about the Pilgrims? Separatists who fled from England to Holland seeking to escape religious persecution by English authorities, and who later booked passage to North America, are now called “Pilgrims,” though Americans did not widely use the term until the 1870s. In November 1620, the Mayflower dropped anchor in present-day Provincetown Harbor. After exploring the coast for a few weeks, the Pilgrims landed and began building a permanent settlement on the ruins of Squanto’s Patuxet village, now renamed New Plymouth. Within the first year, half of the 102 Pilgrims who set out from Europe on the Mayflower had perished. In desperation the Pilgrims initially survived by eating corn from abandoned fields, raiding villages for stored food and seed, and robbing graves at Corn Hill.

Squanto was introduced to the Pilgrims in the spring of 1621, became friends with them, and taught them how to hunt and fish in order to survive in New England. He taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn by using fish as fertilizer and how to plant gourds around the corn so that the vines could climb the cornstalks. Due to his knowledge of English, the Pilgrims made Squanto an interpreter and emissary between the English and Wampanoag Confederacy.

What really happened at the first Thanksgiving in 1621? The Pilgrims did not introduce the concept of thanksgiving; the New England tribes already had autumn harvest feasts of thanksgiving. To the original people of this continent, each day is a day of thanksgiving to the Creator. In the fall of 1621, William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony, decided to have a Plymouth harvest feast of thanksgiving and invited Massasoit, the Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag Federation, to join the Pilgrims. Massasoit came with approximately 90 warriors and brought food to add to the feast, including venison, lobster, fish, wild fowl, clams, oysters, eel, corn, squash and maple syrup. Massasoit and the 90 warriors stayed in Plymouth for three days. These original Thanksgiving foods are far different from the meals prepared in modern Thanksgiving celebrations.

Squanto died in 1622, but Massasoit outlived the era of relative peace in colonial New England. On May 26, 1637, near the present-day Mystic River in Connecticut, while their warriors were away, an estimated 400 to 700 Pequot women, children and old men were massacred and burned by combined forces of the Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay and Saybrook (Connecticut) colonies and Narragansett and Mohegan allies. Colonial authorities found justification to kill most of the Pequot men and enslave the captured women and their children. Pequot slaves were sent to Bermuda and the West Indies. In 1975 the official number of Pequot people living in Connecticut was 21. Similar declines in Native population took place throughout New England as an estimated three hundred thousand Indians died by violence, and even more were displaced, in New England over the next few decades.

Looking at this history raises a question: Why should Native peoples celebrate Thanksgiving? Many Natives particularly in the New England area remember this attempted genocide as a factual part of their history and are reminded each year during the modern Thanksgiving. I turned to the Internet to find out what Native people think of Thanksgiving. Here are some of the responses:

I was infuriated when my daughter’s school had a mock feast complete with paper mache headdresses and pilgrim hats!

When they did that 2 my kids in elementary I TORE those items up and signed my kids out of school for that day.

For thanksgiving I was the Indian. Umm Go figure . . . .

Someone took a picture of me in front of the class and to this day…it bothers me. Don’t get the whole making a fest in school.

Tonight I have to lead a children’s Bible class, and they want me to theme it around Thanksgiving. I will, but it’s not going to be about the happy pilgrims and all that stuff. Thankfulness to God is one thing, but elevating pilgrims to hero status is out of the question.

When my daughter Victoria was in grade school she had a teacher give them the assignment to write a report on Thanksgiving Dinner, and Victoria wrote hers as to why our family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Victoria got an F on the paper, and I threatened to go to the school board if the principal didn’t get it changed. Victoria got an A and the class got a lesson on Native American heritage.

Ignorance and not near enough education in the school systems! It is very sad that a majority of what is taught is very superficial and the dark aspects of our history are neatly tucked away. Very sad!

Considered a day of mourning in our house.

And,

For skins [American Indians], Thanksgiving should be The Last Supper.

The United American Indians of New England meet each year at Plymouth Rock on Cole’s Hill for a Day of Mourning. They gather at the feet of a statue of Grand Sachem Massasoit of the Wampanoag to remember and reflect in the hope that America will never forget.

Do I celebrate Thanksgiving? No, I don’t celebrate. But I do take advantage of the holiday and get together with family and friends to share a large meal without once thinking of the Thanksgiving in 1621. I think it is the same in many Native households. It is ironic that Thanksgiving takes place during American Indian and Alaskan Native Heritage Month. An even greater irony is that more Americans today identify the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday than as National American Indian Heritage Day.

Reprinted with permission from the official blog of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Ann Coulter and the Republican Problem


I can hardly stand to listen to Ann Coulter. She is a hot mess.

Needless to say after Tuesday night she was despondent and took to the airwaves lamenting Mitt Romney‘s loss and discussing what she views as the problem that the Republican party has stating,

Mitt Romney was the president we needed right now, and I think it is so sad that we are going to be deprived of his brain power, of his skills in turning companies around, turning the Olympics around, his idea and his kindness for being able to push very conservative ideas on a country that no longer is interested in conservative ideas. It is interested in handouts.

It may be true that Mitt Romney was the president we needed, but she is wrong about why he is not packing up for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Most Americans are not looking for a handout; they are being given an impossible choice: economics or civil rights?

Those of us who consider ourselves political moderates often feel the same way. We have  great deal of concern over the economy, fiscal responsibility in government and the size of the national debt. We also tend to be socially liberal: in favor of marriage equality, reproductive rights, and if not fully pro-choice at least understanding that the argument has gray areas including issues of rape, and incest.

So on Tuesday anyone who feels this way had to decide where their priorities lie, and much to the chagrin of conservatives everywhere, a majority decided that civil rights had to trump economic concerns. Therein lies the Republican Party’s problem. When they aligned themselves with social ultra-conservatives they left huge groups of voters either without a reason to vote for them or with serious concerns about what a vote for them would mean. Women voters, Hispanic voters, LGBT voters, and the voters who care about them. In fact, the only demographic in which Mitt Romney soundly beat Barak Obama was white male voters, and that is only a small part of the population that makes up this nation.

I have found my Facebook wall to be a disheartening place all week. People who I care about and respect calling Obama voters stupid and idiotic. The level of anger was breathtaking and says one thing loud and clear to me: Everyone is happy to live in a democracy when they are in the majority, but boy, if you find yourself in the minority, democracy doesn’t seem quite so rosy anymore.

And whether you agree or disagree, conservative social values are quickly becoming a minority viewpoint. I’m not making a commentary on whether those values are correct or incorrect; I’ve made my own personal feelings pretty clear in other blog posts, and I’m not in any way saying that anyone needs to compromise their values in their own lives. However, facts are facts, and as long as the social conservatives are speaking more loudly for the Republican party than the fiscal conservatives, Republicans are going to have a hard time getting elected to the office of President.

It’s human nature to want people to see the world as you do, and when we feel passionately about a subject it’s often hard to understand how anyone could feel any differently. Sometimes, though, we have to take a step back and see the big picture…to see the forest, not just the trees…to understand that there is the world we might wish we lived in and the world that we actually do live in. To ignore that is not clinging to your ideals, it is sticking your head in the sand.

If there is anything all of us can agree on it is that politics in this nation is a mess. Everything that gets done or doesn’t get done is about what it will mean in the next election cycle, and that brings me to the second part of the Republican problem. Their spokespeople say they want bipartisanship and our government to work together for compromise.

To which I say:

When President Obama and Governor Chris Christie were walking through the rubble of New Jersey a few days before the election, how did you feel? What did you think bout Christie’s respectfulness and appreciation of Obama coming to see first-hand the destruction of the storm? The photo ops?

Because what I heard was a lot of complaining about how he shouldn’t have done that and shame on him for not keeping his distance.

I thought it was great. Not because I think it made Obama look good (which it did), but because Governor Christie did the right thing, in spite of the flack I’m sure he know he was going to get because of it. It was about getting a job done despite major ideological differences. It was about Obama prioritizing a trip to help citizens who were likely voting for him anyway, and leaving other potentially more beneficial campaign stops to do what was right.

That is what is needed at ALL levels of government right now. Men and women who are willing to hurt themselves or help the other party to get done what needs to get done, because let’s face it, we won’t be able to go on like this for much longer.

Billionaires Behaving Badly


In honor of the fact that it is Election day and The Passionate Moderate desperately wants everyone to get out and vote, I am going to make this a very short little rant about two of my least favorite celebrities.

Donald Trump

&

Mark Cuban

Especially in the case of The Donald, I hate giving him any more attention than he already demands but in this case I feel the need to call him on the carpet. In case you missed it, Trump offered to donate $5 million to the charity of President Obama’s choice if President Obama shows his college application paying special attention to where he said he was born. Never-mind the fact that he has already released his birth certificate, and never-mind that the point is moot because he’s been the president for the last 4 years. Donald Trump has the audacity to demand that the POTUS jumps through hoops for him to prove he is eligible to hold the office of the presidency.

What an embarrassment to our nation. Truly, don’t you think other countries look at something like this and lose respect for us and for the office of the presidency?

Then, in an equally ridiculous dare, Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Maverick‘s basketball team, offered $1 million to the charity of Trump’s choosing if  Donald will shave his trademark hair off. It’s all very immature and petty.

But was bothers me the most, is the cavalier way these men can dangle millions of dollars over our heads like it’s pocket change. Hey boys, if you have a few million to spare how about donating to the Red Cross? I hear they’ve got more work than usual on their hands. Or have you been to busy strutting around to notice?

Jackasses.

(Well, more likely, Elephants.)

To Chik-fil-A or To Not Chik-fil-A, That Is the Question


VS.

A friend e-mailed me today asking if The Passionate Moderate was going to wade in to the Chik-fil-A conversation. I had been mulling it over, but her e-mail really got me thinking about it more. To be honest, I had been pretty ambivalent about the whole controversy, mostly because I never eat at Chik-fil-A anyway so my reasons for not doing so are irrelevant.

As you may know from my previous posts, I am very much in favor of marriage equality. My poor daughter who is all about gay rights is also a Chik-fil-A lover and has decided that she can’t patronize the restaurant any more because it isn’t in line with her most strongly held beliefs. I’m really proud of her for taking a stand, especially because it’s been so hard for her. Giving up Chik-fil-A is really a sacrifice.

That said, I’m not jumping on the boycott bandwagon.

Here’s why…

First of all, I’m not entirely happy with the snarky tone this boycott has taken. It’s all gotten a bit sanctimonious if you ask me. The owners of Chik-fil-A have the right to their opinion, and each of us has a right, as consumers, to voice our opinions through our dollars. If we like a company‘s product, and/or philosophy we buy it; if we don’t we don’t. More on that in a minute.

Secondly, most free-standing Chik-fil-A restaurants have independent operators who may or may not share the founder’s views on gay rights and marriage equality. I kind of hate the idea that someone who is brave enough to start a business risks failing because of issues outside of their control. Yes, yes, I know what you’re about to say. They should research the company they are signing on with, and that’s life. True, but I still don’t like it. I know that one of the owners a Chik-fil-A in my super conservative part of the world is in fact quite liberal. A tough situation.

The biggest reason I have for not necessarily jumping of the anti-Chik-fil-A train can be summed up in this great Gene Wilder meme posted on Facebook  earlier this week:

There it is in a nutshell.

In the highly consumer driven culture of the United States we buy a wide variety of products from many countries. We invest in companies we may not know a thing about. We do support the oil-rich and women’s rights poor countries of the Middle East. We buy cheaper products from China which has an awful human rights record, and on and on it goes. Where does your food come from? Where do your clothes come from? What companies do you invest in and what is their record domestically and/or around the world? It’s funny how we can ignore some  human rights abuses and we get so fired up over others. Dare I even mention our own government and what may or may not go on behind closed doors… torture, covert missions, lobbying, and not to mention how our tax dollars are spent?. How many examples do I need to give to make the point? We can make moral decisions in just about every area in our lives; to actually think about it is daunting. It boils down to the proverb our moms always told us, “Pick your battles”.

So I guess what I’m saying is that a boycott like this always seems a bit hypocritical to me. We can get super self-righteous over one issue while ignoring a mountain of issues behind us,  and while we should take stands for what we believe it and seek to shed light on the issues that concern us, maybe we do it in a spirit of meekness that acknowledges we are only making a tiny difference but that we hope that all of us making our tiny differences together will turn into a world changing force for good.

So if you’re moved to give up Chik-fil-A and take a stand. Good for you. Let people know why you’re doing what you’re doing and then let it go. They will either make their own change or not based on what moves them. And, if you’re really feeling the stress of not eating there anymore there are fantastic fake Chik-fil-A chicken recipes on Pinterest.

(The secret is in the pickle juice!)

Let me know what you think in the comments. Have you decided to take your business elsewhere or are you supporting Chik-fil-A? What other issues have you taken a stand on? We’d all love to know, and don’t forget to like or share this article!

Attempting to Be Fair and Balanced


 

I promised a “con” view of Obamacare, and this is the most well thought out one I’ve found. Definitely gives us something to think about.

 

Happy 4th of July!


Today I just want to briefly say that while I have my issues with the state of politics in this country I appreciate the freedom I have, especially as a woman, to speak my mind without fear of retribution. We live in a flawed country, but a great one just the same.

So fly your flags proudly, enjoy your time with family and friends and remember that our ability to enjoy these things in peace is a luxury many, many people around the world do not have. (And remember too, those families who are not enjoying this holiday together because one or more of them are overseas on active duty in the military or have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.)