By Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2012

There are many versions of American history, but if you listened to most of the speeches at the Republican convention last week, you would have thought there was only one.

It goes like this: My grandfather or father came to this great country from Europe and worked hard and passed down to me a work ethic that allowed me to become the successful person you see before you. Anyone can succeed with hard work.

This one-size-fits-all version of American history does not accurately reflect the experiences of many of our fellow citizens.

It certainly does not reflect the experience of those who were here first, the Native Americans. Nor does it reflect the experience of those who came here as slaves.

The Republicans were using a kind of doublespeak that signifies that the only version of American history that counts is the one that leaves out the strife, discrimination and struggles that different groups have endured — and still endure.

Similarly, Mitt Romney also trivialized the historic nature of the election of President Obama by saying, “If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”

Obama was the first person elected president who was not a European-American male. What millions of voters felt after electing Obama was not just excitement. Obama’s election was a great event in the multilayered history of the United States.

What everyone could see was that another great barrier in the progress of this country had been breached.

Voters of all backgrounds gained tremendous inspiration from his victory, and they felt that even in these contentious and difficult times, we could do something extraordinarily meaningful.

I voted at a fairground at a polling place staffed by black retirees. I’m sure they could remember the days when they would have been prohibited from voting, and now, roughly a half-century later, a black man was at the top of the ticket.

No matter what you think of Obama’s policies and his record while in office, this fact alone should transcend politics.

Romney doesn’t seem to understand that to ignore the multifaceted richness of humanity in the United States and to win the presidency at the same time is becoming a difficult task.

He may understand it better on Nov. 7.

Starita Smith, Ph.D., teaches sociology at the University of North Texas. She was an award-winning journalist at the Gary Post-Tribune, the Columbus Dispatch and the Austin American-Statesman. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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