America is a Woman Named for a Man

I once heard a man say that America was educated people coming through Ellis Island. And I wondered, do educated people get their family names mispelled fifty different ways by border guards who cared more about the dirt on their shoes?

America was not built by the wealthy. The educated could afford to stay where they were– they sent the workers here.

America is a woman named for a man who never saw her: Vespuci sort of got halfway here, then took a hard left, looking for spices. America was birthed by religious refugees and indentured servants. America was raised by slaves who worked the fields under the scorching sun and the master’s whip. America was fed by children and women who lost life and limb to the machines of industry. America was powered by farmers who fled famine, who built the jails and filled them too. America was built by the men who came through Angel Island and were buried under every railroad spike. America was stained with the blood of her citizens sent to internment camps on home soil, her citizens hosed down in her streets, her nations forced to walk a trail of tears.

So to that Georgian man, I have to say, his colony began as a debtor’s prison. They were sent to die for what they owed– to die of a broken back or a mosquito bite. America never belonged to Anglo-Protestant gentility. She belongs, always, to refugees: to people fleeing war, persecution, poverty. America is a woman named for a man. She belongs to Cambodia, Somalia, Syria, and Honduras.

 

3/2/15

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