When I was a kid, I would occasionally say that I was Canadian. My father would not have it. He told me I was an American, not Canadian. I tried to argue. But Grandpa was born in Canada. His family still lives there. Why aren’t we Canadian? We’re American he would say. And that was the end of the discussion.
It wasn’t a diss against Canada or our Canadian relatives, but to him it was more than important; it was pride, it was honor, it was a patriotic act.
When my kids have done their genealogy or ancestry in school or for class projects, they’ve asked, and we’ve told them where their families have come from. We’re Jewish so for us it wasn’t that we came from Eastern Europe, but that we were Russian, German, Polish, but always prefaced by being Jewish. It was our ethnicity more than our religion despite being both.
My kids are all of those things, but their families also come from Canada, Russia, Germany, Poland, and Ireland. We eat foods and follow traditions from all of those family histories.
I’m an American. And some of my family is Canadian. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and neither takes away from the other.
When I heard the first time someone referred contemptuously to Elizabeth Warren’s nod to her Native American ancestry, I had to shake my head at their myopia. She wasn’t saying she was Native. She wasn’t saying she was Indigenous. She wasn’t asking for a government benefit or acknowledgment. She was simply relaying a family story that she’d heard her whole life about her heritage, about the traditions in her own family.
It was the President who made a political issue out of it, and then the racists jumped onboard with their laughter and their name-calling. The President continued with his name-calling just this week.
Even Democrats criticized her for bringing it up now, a distraction from the important midterms, although I would remind them that the President is the one who brought it up, and Senator Warren simply responded. I know what it’s like to have that continual gnawing inside when someone says something about you or your family. They say it, and it’s forgotten, but not by you, not by the aggrieved. The hurt remains and festers and dogs in to all those places that have been hurt before.
I think she also knew the President wouldn’t follow through with his promise of a charitable contribution; he has never kept his word, and he’s not about to start now, but still…
Was she supposed to ignore his taunts? Is she supposed to take it because the timing isn’t right for the election campaign cycle according to some pundits? Is she just supposed to sit down and be quiet little lady?
As someone who lives in a melting pot, I understand where Warren was initially coming from, and the more air we give to the nonsense that this President does and says, the more air he sucks out of the room, and the rest of us, the rest of us are suffocating.
So good for Elizabeth Warren.
One day my kids will be telling someone about their Canadian or Irish ancestry, and they will be mocked because they don’t have the proof; just a handful of family stories they cherish, and I hope they don’t back down either.