Nikki Haley’s announcement that she was running for president reminded me of my lifelong dream to move to India, so I can boss around Indians and tell them to stop worshipping cows and rats. That was the main point of what I said on the Mark Simone radio show last week, which was promptly chopped up, fed into a computer, translated into German, then into Urdu, back to English and finally came out in endless headlines, to sound like a MAGA moron: Go back to your own country, lady!
No, actually, I was making an obvious point I’ve been making for some time now. To wit: It’s bad enough when 11th-generation Americans disrespect our country, but enraging when recent arrivals do.
By “recent arrivals,” I mean anyone whose ancestors came to America after 1800.
At that point, America had already been around for two centuries. We had conquered a dangerous wilderness, battled savages, brought Christianity to the natives, divided ourselves into states, fought a revolution, drafted a constitution, built a capitol, established colleges and universities (including six of the seven Ivy Leagues), were about to fight a bloody Civil War to end slavery, and were well on our way to becoming the greatest nation on Earth.
Post-1800 immigrants just kind of showed up. True, many of them were better than the people who already lived here. (Especially the ones who arrived when our greeting was still, “Sink or swim!” instead of, “Here’s your welfare application.”)
Thus, a few years ago, I wrote:
“MSNBC’s smirking Chris Hayes can get weepy about some ancient Roman ruin, and Rachel Maddow about a building in Warsaw, but I care about my history. These savages are smashing and graffitiing my antiquities.”
No one minded that. That’s because only the most recent of recent arrivals, from the most dissonant cultures, are sacred beings to the left. (Sacred cows?) As Bill Clinton’s director of the census once said, maybe it’s about time the “Western majority” do “some assimilation of its own.”
One of those better-than-us recent arrivals was Louis Brandeis, born to Jewish immigrants from Central Europe. He went on to become a Supreme Court justice and have a university named after him.
This is what Brandeis said, in 1915, on “Americanization Day” [REPORTED TO THE AUTHORITIES] about the process of becoming an American:
“However great his outward conformity, the immigrant is not Americanized unless his interests and affections have become deeply rooted here. And we properly demand of the immigrant even more than this. He must be brought into complete harmony with our ideals and aspirations and cooperate with us for their attainment. Only when this has been done, will he possess the national consciousness of an American.”
A big part of that “harmony” is understanding the amazing way this country dealt with the losers of our two major national conflicts: the war(s) with the Indians and the Civil War. We should be on our knees thanking God both those wars came out the way they did or, today, America would be a backward, third world hellhole.
Both the Indians and Confederates were part of a bygone culture, mostly illiterate, and unable to manufacture anything, much less feed and clothe a transcontinental nation of more than 300 million people. Thanks to the superior culture and technology of Protestant New England and the Midwest, the Confederates and Indians never really stood a chance.
But they fought like banshees [REPORTED!], and we honor them for their breathtaking courage and nobility.
Every macho thing in America is — or was, until about five minutes ago — named after either American Indians or Confederates — e.g., the Apache and Comanche attack helicopters, the Braves, the Redskins, the Indians, Fort Benning, Fort Bragg, Fort Gordon, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Hood, Fort Lee, Fort Pickett, Fort Polk, Fort Rucker and on and on and on.
Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman got his middle name from a Shawnee warrior chief admired by his father. Paratroopers who jumped into Normandy cut their hair to look like Mohawks and shouted “Geronimo!” as they leapt.
Sometimes, it seems like everybody in America is boasting about Indian heritage — like Elizabeth Warren — or displaying the rebel flag. See, e.g., OutKast, “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Lynyrd Skynyrd, and tiles in the Times Square subway station honoring former New York Times publisher Adolph S. Ochs — “a Southerner with strong ties to the Confederacy,” according to Civil War historian Dr. David Jackowe.
Sitting Bull became a celebrity, signing autographs and performing with Annie Oakley. (My direct ancestor was a stand-in for Oakley and may have performed with Sitting Bull.)
No other country’s internal wars have ever concluded this way. The usual method of ending a domestic conflict is with ceaseless guerrilla warfare and total humiliation of the defeated.
Yale professor David Blight sneers at the “Lost Cause” expression, calling it “an interpretation of the American Civil War viewed by most historians as a myth that attempts to preserve the honour of the South.”
Oh, how awful. We’d just ended a bloody Civil War with 600,000 dead … Job No. 1: Keep picking at the scab!
David Blight, marriage counselor: Every day, discuss what you hate about each other.
My ancestors were Union soldiers who fought the Confederates. My ancestors were killed by American Indians — and rescued by others! But I don’t go around whining that maybe I’d have more “generational wealth” or higher SAT scores if only we took down statues of Sitting Bull and Robert E. Lee.
Their history is my country’s history. And it’s a history to be proud of — precisely for how the losers were treated. If you don’t understand that, I don’t think you’re really trying to bring yourself into “complete harmony with our ideals and aspirations.”
Again, such ignorance is disgusting coming from Mayflower descendants. But it is beyond galling to have a second-generation immigrant like Haley sanctimoniously take down the Confederate flag, which she did as governor of South Carolina. How about going back and critiquing the Indian culture she’s constantly boasting of? You know, the country where a majority still revere cows, others worship rats, and which has more slaves today than any other nation on Earth.
Whatever else possessing “the national consciousness of an American” entails, it surely includes not being sublimely ignorant of the total awesomeness of the country you’re currently living in.