HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

October 20, 2008
From Liberty Street

The Real Deal

John Turner


So now we're back to the question of who's a real American and who's not.

I confess, it's a query that perplexes me. The people who push it forward don't bother to offer the criteria. Maybe, for them, it's just so obvious that to explain how one determines real Americanism is beside the point.

Listening to them, I become ever more sure of one thing, though: I'm not a real American.

I'm a member of a family that has resided in America for more than three hundred years. I was an officer in the United States Army and a helicopter pilot. I was honorably discharged. I have lived in nine states of the union, and nowhere else. I have never been thrown into prison. I like baseball as much as anyone in the world. I have voted in twelve presidential elections. I was even, for a short while, a member of the Kiwanis Club. But none of that matters. I'm lacking the key ingredient to be a real American. And my problem is, I don't even know what it is. I just know I don't have it.

I've begun to wonder if the qualifying mark of  the real American is classified, secreted deep in the bowels of the Pentagon. In the list above, I forgot to mention that I once had a secret security clearance and even worked in the Pentagon for a short while. At the time, I thought I was a genuine member of the system, but I see now that I was never let in on the real secret, and that though my presence was tolerated, all the real Americans around me knew I was not one of them.

Now, you may be asking how it is that I know I'm excluded. Truth is, it's perfectly obvious.

I listened to John McCain a couple days ago explaining to Chris Wallace, of Fox News, no less, how it is that robocalls which make false charges against Barack Obama are completely okay and legitimate. I haven't got what it takes to see that and, so, I must not be a real American.

I watched a clip of Sarah Palin speaking to a group in North Carolina and telling them how much she liked to go to the pro-American parts of the country, and I realized that wherever I am in the United States, whether it's in the heart of New York City or in Carrizozo, New Mexico, I can't pick up whether it's pro-American or anti-American. That tells me I'm not a real American because real Americans know things like that.

I saw Michele Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota, being interviewed by Chris Matthews on Hardball, and calling for a journalistic investigation of all the members of Congress, to determine which of them are anti-American. Her implication was that quite a few of them would fall into that category, and there’s no doubt that the junior senator from Illinois is already there. I found myself recalling all the times I've been in Illinois lately, which add up to quite a few because my daughter lives in Chicago, lives, in fact, within a couple miles of Barack Obama's house. Never, when I've been there, have I picked up the reason why the people I see swarming around me, would send an anti-American figure to the Senate of the United States. There must be some reason since that's what they did. But, I don't get it and that's proof positive that I'm not a real American.

Over the past eight years, I have observed dozens of real Americans, persons like Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Oliver North, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly, Dick Morris, Pat Buchanan, and G. Gordon Liddy, speaking out on television. Never have I been able to pick up the sense in what they were saying. This, I think, is the definitive evidence. I simply don't have what they have and so it's clear, I am not a real American.

My un-Americanness being clearly established, I suppose I should decide what to do about it. Should I take up a holy quest to get what I've never had? Should I determine to alter myself? Should I seek complete transmogrification?

At first glance, it seems like the thing to do. But second thoughts give me pause. Never having experienced real Americanness, I can't be sure I would like it. I've made it all this way as a stranger in a strange land. So maybe I should just let it go at that.


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