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Of Patriotism, Joe Six-Pack, and Real Americans

There’s been a lot of rhetoric lately about this idea that “real” Americans are middle class Christian white people living in small towns. Because somehow the POC in those towns? Not really American. People living in major cities? Not really American. People who are not Christian? Not American. Part and parcel of the implications of the “real” American stance is this idea that “real” Americans are patriots who are willing to sacrifice their lives (or watch their children make that sacrifice) in service to their country. Now, as some of you already know I’m a veteran. And I have to say this idea that the only specific religions and races are really American? Disgusts me. Because I know who I served with, I know how many families that have made the ultimate sacrifice do not bear any resemblance to the Joe Six-Pack image that is being espoused as the true face of America. The true face of America? Looks like this:


In what reality is it remotely acceptable to imply that this soldier was not a “real” American because of his last name or his faith? He was 20 years old, and he put it all on the line for his country. How dare anyone disrespect that sacrifice by implying that he wasn’t good enough to be a “real” American? Are there real Americans in small towns in the Midwest? Absolutely. There are also real Americans living in Brooklyn, Chicago, and Los Angeles. They are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans, Agnostics, Atheists, and host of other belief systems. They are every race, every income level, and every educational background. Because that’s the true America. Not the one that spews hate and calls it patriotism.

27 thoughts on “Of Patriotism, Joe Six-Pack, and Real Americans”

  1. Angel H. says:

    Such a beautiful picture…

    (Unfortunately, with him being in a national cemetary, she’ll have to remove the flowers and Qur’an.)

    I also seem to remember a family being given a hard time because they wanted a pentagram on their son’s grave in a national cemetary. (He was Pagan.)

  2. Mike says:

    What really irks me about the Republican Party’s view of America (i.e., all white Christians) is embodied in the latest McCain robo-calls: Implying Obama is a muslim.

    Okay, Obama is not a muslim. But, seriously, it shouldn’t matter even if he were. And *that’s* what I find so depressing about a segment of America, and specifically the current Republican Party.

    A shame, I kinda like McCain. I just can’t stand his party.

  3. Abel M says:

    I am Latino and a veteran. It did my heart good to hear General Powell’s comments on Meet the Press last Sunday regarding Cpl Khan. There appears to be a growing popular backlash to the right-wing strategy of labeling progressive (or just “different’) views as unAmerican. Witness the reaction to Congresswoman Bachmann’s recent comments on “Hardball.” It’s about time!

  4. Adam says:

    100% on board with your piece, Karnythia.

    I want my children to think of their dark-skinned mother who took her Oath of Citizenship in front of Federal Judge of African-American heritage when they think of “Patriot”.

    I have grown tired of the words “American”…”Patriot”…”Hard-Working”…being equated only with White Protestant Males (like me).

    I have quote that Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1781: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say that there are 20 gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

    My brother returned from Iraq. One of my best of friends was just sent there for a 13-month assignment. And a long-time coworker of mine is being shipped to Afghanistan after the turn of the year. Among the three of them, there is wide range of political and religious positions.

  5. Fuster says:

    What a touching article.

    I was totally touched when I saw General Powell’s comments on the Arab (race) issue. We are all Americans regardless the race, the religious beliefs, and the origins. My kids are half Asian and half white. I hope when they grow up, they don’t need to face any doubt from people whether they are “American” enough.

  6. Lady K. says:

    Whoever took the photograph has a way with capturing emotional images…

    The racism that is happening during the presidential campaign displays how little (if at all) things have changed in this society…Most of the people I’ve talked to are far from shocked (but rather disgusted) by everything that’s going on…

    The bigotry that Muslim American soldiers face today is nearly identical to the racism black American soldiers faced during WWII…It’s a tragedy that some of our servicemen & women are fighting & dying for the freedom of others, only to face oppression & second-class citizen treatment back home…

  7. daisydeadhead says:

    Ohhhh, that photo breaks my heart. :(

  8. Bree says:

    I would love to tell the supporters of Sarah Palin (she who made that lovely comment) here in Harford County, Maryland that they are not real Americans.

    How could a woman who by all accounts is intelligent be so completely stupid? I guess she doesn’t realize that there are black Republicans who do agree with her views too.

    As shown in the picture above, you don’t have to be white and Christian to love your country. It’s about time Palin and her ilk know that.

  9. Ceci says:

    It is heart-breaking stories like Cpl. Khan that makes the Repubicans’ narrow definition of Americanism so sad, depressing and infuriating.

    If any of them bothered to look around the cross section of America, they’d realize that their version of Americanism died out in the days of McCarthyism. No attempts to revive it (like in Bachmann’s crazy diatribe on the Chris Matthew’s show) is going to bring back such a time.

    This time, we’re wise to their BS and have the gravitas to counter their stupid beliefs of “Pro-Americanism”.

  10. the angry black woman says:

    standing ovation

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  13. The Silverback says:

    Someone should send this picture to Gov. Palin. Her narrow minded continues to astound me. Every tiime I see a rally highlight, all I can do is sigh and shake my head….

  14. Magenta Griffith says:

    Well, I will be voting for a candidate who is Black and a Muslim: Keith Ellison, my Congressperson here in the 5th district of Minnesota. He was elected two years ago and is doing a great job. I’ll be voting for Obama as well. I am white, and I will be very pleased to see a POC in the White House; Obama is very intelligent and competent, and that’s what we need. I can remember watching MLK’s “I have a dream” speech on TV, and it’s about bloody well time.

  15. Hara says:

    I want this entry to get national press.

    at least Huffington ought to share it

  16. Hara says:

    and THANK YOU for saying this.

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  19. Johnny Peepers says:

    To me, a real American is embodied in the spirit and magnificence of none other than Hulk Hogan. A muscled, confidant, charismatic man who refused to bow down to any man whether he be a commie, Iranian, or a hyperactive thyroid giant.

  20. Andre says:

    *Joins ABW in the standing O*

    I remember when McCain recently tried to quell some nonsense from one of his supporters about Obama being an Arab. Immediately after dispelling the idea that Obama was a Muslim, he went on to say that Obama’s a “decent family man”; almost implying that such attributes aren’t associated with Muslims. Though I happen to actually be a Christian, I almost fell out of my chair when I heard that nonsense.

    The picture in this post should be STAPLED on Palin and McCain’s foreheads…along with their legion of ignorant-ass minions.

  21. The Vixenne says:

    If Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin and their brainwashed bigoted ilk are the examples of “real Americans”, then I want no part of it. Let me define what being an “American” is to me. I believe in the politics of inclusion and respect.

    There’s a great saying: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.

  22. Jane Stark says:

    God, that’s lovely. Thank you so much for putting those thoughts to words so effectively.

    As a Canuck watching the campaigns from north of the border, I’m pulling for you guys. Barack Obama would be such a positive force, and not just in the United States. And, even for non-Americans, the alternative is really just too scary.

  23. John says:

    It is sickening to see the value of patriotism cheapened like this. I myself am a white, male, protestant, straight, middle class, male, (the list of privileges goes on). I do love this country, but that does not mean my Asian friends and my Wicca step-mother loves it less. The idea that only white, protestant, small town people, who live in the Midwest (like most of my family) are American is offensive, even those who fit in that description. It makes me feel sick to have my patriotism just handed to me because of my skin color and in what way I worship, while others have to die to gain it (even then they might be called into question).

    Like I said, sickening.

  24. Tariq Nelson says:

    Nice piece. I also think that people are getting tired of small town America being presented as “real” Americans and the rest of us as “fake”. McCain even said last night in an interview that those “elites” they talk about are in NYC and DC.

    Another McCain person said that N. Virginia is not “real” Virginia. I suppose I live in “fake” Virginia

  25. anonymousbw says:

    There is the patriotism of honest patriots-i.e. dissenters with a cause-then there is the false brand of patriotism-the patriotism of *darn* fools! The kind that is really nothing but jingoism!We all know the brand of patriotism “some” *real* Americans are drinking.

    I have grown tired of the words “American…”Patriots”…”Hardworking”..being equated only with White Protestant Males(like me.)

    That has been annoying for a while to me!

  26. Mary Neal says:

    Some folks are held as being “unpatriotic” if they ask what happened to their relatives who died in government custody and are returned to their families as corpses but denied any records, explanation, excuse or investigation. Did you know that?

    See The Cochran Firm Fraud vidoes 1 and 2 on YouTube, if they let you. Comments to the videos seem to be on lockdown.

    Mary Neal

  27. LSW says:

    y’all should write about this:

    ” ‘Violent bigotry is still disturbingly prevalent in America, with nearly one hate crime occurring every hour of every day of the year,’ ADL director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement.”

  28. douglaskev says:

    right on.

  29. abw says:

    Mary Neal, it doesn’t surprise me at all.

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