America was a bastard the illegitimate daughter of the mother country whose legs were then spread around the world and a rapist known as freedom – free doom.
Democracy, liberty, and justice were revolutionary code names that preceded the bubbling, bubbling, bubbling, bubbling, bubbling in the mother country’s crotch.
What does Websters say about soul?
All I want is a good home and a wife
And children, and some food to feed them every night.
After all is said and done build a new route to China if they’ll have you.
Who will survive in America?
-Gil Scott-Heron, Who will survive in America?
Scott-Heron, 1970s radical poet and activist, brings to mind a new creation story—one that shows the “other” side of the birth of America, the story that is often omitted in schools or churches. America as the off-spring of competing forces of oppression and emancipation has resulted in a nation that has inherited the oppressive systems of its maternal figure, England.
We credit our revolutionary Founding Fathers with liberating the United States from England’s tyrannical rule. However, might it be that Scott-Heron is on to something, that a nation based on freedom has also inherited “free doom” from its mother country? One does not have to study intensely psychology to understand that people resemble the traits of their parents. Therefore, I argue that America has inherited exclusionary behavior from England and has allowed it become a part of its tradition.
Even in the most radical movements, exclusion of “the other” can be identified. The United States regards Thomas Paine as a revolutionary figure that has aided in the emancipation of a nation. However, if we study Paine closely (i.e. his text entitled Common Sense) we see that behind his liberating, empowered rhetoric lies a history of exclusion and shadowing of a people who are deemed as a burden to a social cause. This is an incredibly ironic and contradicting relationship. Paine protested against the possessive and dominating nature of England and impassioned society to revolt against the monarch abroad. However, the social group that Paine sought to motivate did not capture the liberal and encompassing essence of his manifesto. Women, people of color, people who were not Christian, indigenous persons, and slaves were excluded by Paine. On the contrary, Paine’s vision of revolution included white, god-fearing, working-class men. Although Paine spoke against foreign systems of oppression, he himself actualized the exclusion that he experienced.
Today, we can see our tradition of exclusion being manifested within the very social movements we deem as “radical,” “socialist,” and “leftist.” The exclusionary conflict within the gay movement gave rise to the queer movement. Social theory shows us that the gay movement often denies support to transgendered people, cross-dressers, or any identity that does not comply with heteronormative standards of being. Unfortunately, the gay movement, in its attempt to persuade the conservative party of its ability to “fit in,” excludes queer sub-culturesocially progress and “others” this already other-ed identity. Likewise, even though popular culture paints all feminists as radical bra-burners and anarchists, the feminist movement also practiced this tradition of exclusion. Women of color were not acknowledged by the Anglo women who lead feminism. Even as progressive as second wave feminists were, the universalized profile of middle-class, educated, white woman failed to understand the complexities of race, class, and gender combined.
These are but a few instances in which radical social movements digress from their liberal agenda by excluding subgroups that are deemed a liability. Paine, as one of the first practitioners of exclusion in this nation, has shown us how even revolutionary groups drop people and their other-ed counterparts in the name of social progress. An dilemma that seems to resurface during every historical tension ought to move us to revisit Scott-Heron’s question in a manner that reflects this repeating historical problem: If “other-ed” groups are deemed illegitimate even in radical movements, then who will survive in America?