Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Ronald Takaki

The canvas of our dreams

The canvas of our dreams
Writ deep in hazy memories
Unfurls a Master Narrative
Embraced with godly fervor

Layer upon layer added thereto
Fills in once empty gaps
With stuff of dreams and whiffs of smoke
The snake oil of deceivers

Here, drink to this and drink to that!
We’ve always been the greatest
Just raise your glass and repeat with me
Our mantra of salvation –
Then head right to your voting booth
And punch for victory!

In the opening pages of his monumental history of multicultural America, Ronald Takaki defines what he calls “the Master Narrative of American History.”

According to this powerful and popular but inaccurate story, our country was settled by European immigrants, and Americans are white. ‘Race,’ observed Toni Morrison, has functioned as a ‘metaphor’ necessary to the ‘construction of Americanness’: in the creation of our national identity, ‘American’ has been defined as ‘white.’ Not to be ‘white’ is to be designated as the ‘Other’ – different, inferior, and unassimilable.

Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (Little, Brown and Company, 2008 edition, p. 4)
Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness in the Literary Imagination (Cambridge, Mass., 1992, p. 47)

This rules out groups such as those Takaki focuses on in his book: Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, Mexican Americans, and Muslim Americans.

The only way to fight surreal snake oil is with knowledge and committed resistance to the purveyors of snake oil.

As a highly persistent woman, I am yet again highly recommending this book. Even though you may not make it through all 445 pages, you’ll find a goldmine of correctives to our current misguided, surreal national obsession with who’s really ‘American.’

Cheers to all my neighbors, near and far. We’re in this together–even when it seems we’re not.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 October 2017
Image found at hallidaysutherland.files.wordpress.com

Daily Prompt: Surreal

My ‘quick and inventive verbal humor’

Sorry WordPress, but my ‘quick and inventive verbal humor’ (thank you, Google) went missing this week. Which is one way of saying it hasn’t been a stellar week. Not in the news, not in my heart, not in my body.

About the middle of this week I began a downslide, following several days of feeling on a fairly steady upswing.

One of the most discouraging things these days is overhearing or reading comments about “the American people.” Granted, as a nation we’re not looking so great these days. And what happens here makes things less safe around the world. Yet some fallout from Mr. Trump’s presidency is beginning to wear thin.

I fully understand questions about Mr. Trump and about our national election process. I do not, however, understand the need to view us in one lump sum as “the American people” who have, according to some, brought this on ourselves.

True, we aren’t considered the most upstanding people in the world, in large part due to overweening national pride and ignorance about the rest of the world–even though many of our citizens are from ‘the rest of the world.’

Yet when it comes to politics and national pride, the sad, painful truth is this: We are not “the American people.” Rather, we are a multicultural mix of citizens who identify proudly as ‘American,’ plus uncounted others who are citizens yet not certain where we stand in the eyes of our neighbors.

Nor are we the saviors of this country, now being led by a white man who claims to be a Christian yet seems not to know or care how to tell the truth, listen to the truth or live in the bright light of truth about himself , about those whom he supposedly serves, or about the world in which we find ourselves today.

We the people are, however, part of the solution in its daily human manifestations—in our homes, our schools, our churches, our neighborhoods, our schools and businesses, and our prisons. That’s what most of us are called to address. This, I would suggest, is our true history—untold for the most part in all its horror and its glory.

Even so, until we deal with the truth about our racial and cultural history, we will not make major headway as a nation. For this we need a leader who will make the history of multicultural America a top priority. I fear Mr. Trump is not up to the task.

Other noteworthy events in my week:
• I signed up for an Open Mic Night at my church on October 15. I’m going to read 2 or 3 of my poems. The first time ever! It’s a benefit for our Deacon’s Fund.
• On the down side, I found out I have a small but nasty pre-cancerous skin lesion that’s going to need a torture and torment method to ensure its demise. But not until after Open Mic Night!

Thanks for listening, especially today. If you’re interested in the highs and lows of our multicultural history, I highly recommend the title pictured above.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 September 2017
Image found at amazon.com
Daily Prompt: Witty

Disappeared

Disappeared
without a trace
comes home to haunt us

Dis-membered
lives and bodies broken
past yet present

Suppressed
roots of our
current discontent

We don’t have to accept this state of denial. It leaves traces that scream to be heard. We are a multicultural nation.

We don’t all agree that this is a proud heritage. Nonetheless, not once in my upbringing or schooling did anyone introduce me to the full history of multicultural America, the so-called United States. We seemed content with stylized stories that perhaps told part, but not nearly enough of the truth.

The seminary in which I taught and served as dean had a proudly diverse student body, faculty and staff. Yet every time there was a national racial incident (Rodney King, for example), I was reminded of how much I didn’t know or understand.

During my last year at the seminary, I was part of a small faculty group that piloted a way to work together on issues of race and multicultural differences. We took up-front time coming to agreement about how to be safe within our diverse group. Then we got to work, doing with each other the personal and group work that might be done across our campus and institutional structures.

One of the most riveting books we read was A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. It’s now out in an expanded, updated edition. The author Ronald Takaki, was born and raised in the USA. His ancestors came from Japan, and he looks Japanese. And yet…he was still considered an outsider.

Takaki’s well-documented book begins with American Indians, before the so-called discovery of this country. From there, he traces the chronological history of multicultural America to the present.

This is the American History I was never taught in school. Takaki packs it with data, stories, photos, archived news articles, and astute insights into why we are diverse, and how each group was received into these United States. He also has a vision for what we might learn from this history about our future as a thriving multicultural nation.

We’ve forgotten our roots. We’ve suppressed them and found ways to cope with or rewrite the truth about our past. We’ve done this in public and private, newscasts, corporations, universities, neighborhoods, families, churches and communities of faith, and in our educational system—to name a few. Textbook wars are still fought to keep certain voices from seeing the light of day.

Sadly, this approach suppresses the truth about brave women, men and children who found and still find ways to work together against our national habit of creating insiders and outsiders.

What kind of future do we want for our country? What would it take to get from here to there?

For starters, you might read this book. You might find yourself in it. Or, if you’d like a shorter, equally riveting edition, there’s an edition for young people. Same title, with well-documented stories and photos. Both books are difficult to put down.

Add it to your reading list!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 May 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Trace

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