I don’t mean we are becoming literally extinct, of course. But white men will finally cease to be the only face of power in the United States and much of the world, western and otherwise, in 2013.
Don’t expect us to go quietly. Some truly spectacular gerrymandering, even by American standards, could leave the House of Representatives in the hands of white men who do not represent a majority of their party, much less a majority of their country, through the end of the decade.
We’ll continue to shout the world is coming to an end. But it is not the world coming to an end. It is only our world ending. Year by year, we’ll shout louder and year by year, more and more of our country will turn their backs on us and go about their business of freedom, not based on our principles and demands, but on their own. Year by year, we’ll get older, until we are too infirmed to shake our fists or write our checks or cast our votes. Then we’ll die. And that will be that.
The Massey family can reliable trace its presence on the American continent to 1696. I am related to that family through my father’s father’s mother. Other branches of the family tell the story, less reliable, of relatives that ran a make-shift hospital during the Revolutionary War. We talk about a real great great grandfather who is rumored to have been at Gettysburg, although evidence proving this tale is in short supply.
A story more likely to be true is the German-speaking ancestor who got off a ship in Philadelphia and began walking west. At every farm where they spoke German, he asked if help was needed. At the first one that did, he settled and eventually married a daughter of the family. So were the seeds of new lives in a new world planted, including my own.
Looking at this history, I do not think or feel I am any more or any less American than any other person born here or any person who takes the oath of citizenship today or any person who simply thinks some day he or she might like to take it.
As many have said before – including our newly re-elected president – “American” is not a race or a nationality or a gender or a religion or a culture or a language or a sexual orientation or a certain sufficient quantity of money in pocket. It is an idea to which all people should be able to aspire, and which all people should share, equally. Here and other places.
I am aware how far short of its ideals the American project has fallen, and know the pain of this failure has fallen on others who are not myself.
But 236 years of painful progress has still yielded progress and more is coming. This progress will be fitful and slow, always compromised, sometimes bought off or bargained away, thwarted, threatened, stalled, mocked, ignored, and attacked. Still it will come.
The seeds of new lives will be planted in fields once denied. A new world will grow again as it has grown before. For that I am grateful. And with that, I send my New Year’s greetings to you all