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The Taking of America


Is the United States in or of America?  Maybe a strange question, but perhaps one that can shed some light on our climate of injustice that needs correction.  Isn’t it obvious that “America” existed before the United States? Does the notion of “United States of America” obscure or reveal this fact?


So, what is the meaning of “of” in the phrase “United States of America?  The American Heritage dictionary of The English Language offers 21 options from “belonging to” like the “rungs on a ladder” to “coming-from,” like “men of the north.” None of the options can tell us for certain what Thomas Jefferson meant when he coined the phrase.  (Before Jefferson, we had “united colonies,” not “united colonies of America.”)


It is a bit strange that we don’t say “Mexico of America” or even “Israel of Palestine” but do say “United States of America.” If you ask where Mexico is, the answer is “in Mesoamerica.” And where is Israel? In Palestine. And the United States?  Isn’t it in America?


Do you know why America is beautiful, but United States is not? And what is beautiful about America?  Is it the land, the scenery, the landscape, the things-worthwhile-seeing? Is it the land with or without people?  The naturalist, John Muir, thought the beauty of the wilderness was without people, so he supported driving Indigenous communities out of the Mountains so white people could enjoy the beauty of nature.


In fact, the land of America was populated with over 500 communities before European settlers arrived. When our government was formed after the War of Independence, it was a nation controlled by European immigrants who had taken land and were intent on taking more of it from native Americans.

Wouldn’t it make sense to say that only indigenous people are “of America”? The notion of “United States of America” not only erases their existence from white people’s consciousness, but also makes our “taking of America” an action of white supremacy.


Some would say that we can use the notion “of America” however we want, because it is ours. We took America and we intend to keep it.  “This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island.”  I used to sing this.  Now I see that white supremacy is baked into this song, and it blinds us to the need to repair injustices.


Or to put it another way: America is only beautiful when it manifests the inclusion of indigenous communities who are truly “of America.”






1 комментарий

Nice one!

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