December 7, 2014

American Motorcycle Vagabond

My family has had it's servicemen over the years and I have always considered myself a patriot, but as my understanding of politics, government and my own family history unraveled, so too has my blind sense of patriotism. Perhaps some see my questioning the motives of my government as disloyal. But my direct ancestor, our nation's first President and known fighter of an oppressive government, George Washington, was quoted to say, this:

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

Steve and I have many discussions on the topics of history, politics, and freedom. Most of my ancestors were Indians, Choctaw to be exact, and Steve's mother is Japanese. We each identify with these two races primarily because of our appearances, I believe. While we both also have Caucasian relatives, neither of us look very Caucasian, leaving us to see ourselves as outsiders for the most part. In my own immediate family, I look quite different from my mother and siblings, and I have always felt like an outsider with them.


The Japanese and the Indians have so much in common in regards to their appearance, their cultures, their spiritual beliefs and their treatment by the U.S. Government. In these commonalities, along with many others, Steve and I have formed a deep bond. When we visited the WWII Japanese Interment Camp Manzanar a couple of years ago, I struggled with the amount of rage I felt. Just like my own ancestors, the Japanese were interred by the U.S. Government and had everything they owned stolen from them.

This is the power of our current government. Ask any detainee of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.

This practice continues.

So on this, Pearl Harbor Day, my inner rage rises again, reminding me that today is the day to remember the unconstitutional interment of Japanese Americans. Remember, indeed. I also remember the 25,000 Indians murdered by the U.S. Government along the Trail of Tears, the relocation of Indians. My Great-Great-Grandmother walked this at the age of 7, watching her family die along the way. I remember this proud race of Real People who were nearly wiped off the planet by the U.S. Government in many, many campaigns against my ancestors. I remember the thousands of Japanese Americans who were robbed of everything, interred and subsequently returned to poverty at the end of the war.

We remember, and many of these memories are folded into our current belief system and shape our choices today.

"Why would you get rid of everything you own and ride a motorcycle across the country?" I am asked, often.

What I rarely say, which is my truth, is that I would rather give it all away than to have it stolen from me. I would rather be unburdened so as to travel, than to be beholden to a piece of dirt, sticks, bricks or mortar, defending myself and my land. It is because I no longer believe in owning land, or property, or things; I believe these things will own me, if I allow them to. It is because I want to breathe easy with nothing rather than lie sleeplessly worrying about protecting my "stuff".

"Freedom can't be transferred from one person to another, only material things," Steve said recently.

We had been discussing someone who murdered his father and grandfather to inherit their property.

Having nothing, no home, no real property to speak of, not only leaves us unburdened, but unworried about what we may lose. To us, this is another level of freedom that few of us are able to enjoy. Perhaps this is just temporary, but isn't owning something temporary as well? Isn't all of life temporary?

Along Arizona State Hwy 80 heading north from Douglas to the New Mexico border, we rolled through a breathtaking valley in the late afternoon. At the sight of blowing golden grasses in the vast fields, I wept with wonder, my heart filled with the glory of American land at it's finest. I felt the same feeling at the sight of the plains in Kansas, crossing the Mississippi River eastward for the first time into Memphis, the noise in Times Square, the rolling hills of Minnesota, watching the Colorado Rockies actually turn purple as we rode at sunset, and the beauty of the sunflower fields of South Dakota.

These memories will never leave me, along with many others of our travels across this country I love and call home. The most American thing I have done in my lifetime is to go and see America. In these moments, my patriotism flourishes to it's greatest degree. Perhaps remembering the atrocities of our government seems unpatriotic to some, but to me, this is part and parcel of being American; to not blindly love my country, but to love it with my eyes wide open from the seat of my motorcycle as I travel across it.



1 comment:

  1. Love your country, fear your government.

    It is so unfortunate that this country has such a sad and cruel history. Those words don't even seem to describe the wretchedness of how its citizens have been treated in history.


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