But it’s the same America. And it’s already great, but (of course) it still needs work.
After hours and hours of driving to get to my American Studies Association conference in Denver (staying in somewhere, NY; Avon, OH; St. Louis, MO; middle of nowhere Kansas; and Westminster, CO), we spent a week traveling through state and national parks and camping in Utah and Nevada. We saw big cities and small towns, developed toll roads and interstates and America’s Loneliest Highway across Nevada.
Because that is what we are. We are both sides of the coin. We are the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are contradictory. We are principled and visionary and blind to our own weaknesses.
We are the house in shambles in Lebenon, Kansas—the geographical center of the United States—that displays a Trump/Pence sign a week after the election. I felt it was wrong to take that picture; my heart was breaking. We are also the well-to-do, Asian American teenage boy in a Trump/ence shirt goofing around with his siblings at the Arches visitor’s center. Both of these constituencies feel neglected by America. Making America great again is a call to narrow ideas and privileges of the past as well as a call to the future.
I always put this holiday into quotation marks, often to remind my students to use their critical thinking skills. When we “break” for “Thanksgiving” I often ask students to reflect upon this holiday in relation to our course materials. Not always coincidentally, the work we do the week before this holiday break makes a direct connection to the ongoing lives and legacies of Native Americans. So, as we drove I was thinking about my students reading Shadows Cast By Stars, a YA dystopia novel that centers an indigenous girl. And I listened to a CD of the Burnnurwurbskek Singers, a Native American drum group, given to me by one of my students.
And I also thought about how, not far north of me, the battles over land and water and indigenous rights and the future of our planet rages on….but this is a subject that deserves far more than my little side note....