Let's review a few things. In 2000 we had a presidential election. The popular vote was 50,999,897 for Al Gore, and 50,456,002 for George Bush. The eventual electoral college vote was 271* for Bush and 266 for Gore. I have heard conservatives at various times say that people such as me should "just get over it"--the fact that the squeakingest close election in U.S. history was eventually decided by a vote of 9 people, with the vote 5 to 4. Get over it.
OK--I got over it. Well, not really--but I lived with it. For eight L-O-N-G years. But I never once shouted that we have to TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY. I assumed the democratic process does work and would work.
Then, we had another presidential election with new players. This time around the popular vote was 69,456,897 for Obama, and 59,934,814 for McCain. The electoral college vote was 365 for Obama, and 173 for McCain. No need to go to the vote of 9 people.
I believe that's called "democracy"--vox populi. The voice of the people.
So, now when I hear these cries for "take our country back" I want to know--from whom? From me? Because I voted for Obama. And I believe I was VERY much in the majority.
Of course, there is a subtext here, and it turns the cries to a more sinister bent. Do you remember when the whole affair of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. kicked up a bit more than a year ago? I wrote about it here.
One of the subtexts in this story was that a black man was standing outside a really nice house, and it looked like he was breaking into the house. What was a black man doing in that neighborhood? Well, friends, I am sorry to say, the same subtext runs through this cry "take back our country." What is that black man doing in that neighborhood?
Oh, the people crying take back the country won't admit that they feel this way. In fact, some have even had the temerity to claim that Obama is the racist. (!) But, that is surely part of what this fuss is all about.
I just got done reading the book The Help. It's not a great book, but it is a page-turner, and it has some cogent observations about the way black and white folk interacted in the south 50 years ago. I am now reading a history of the development of Atlantic City (the basis for the new HBO series Boardwalk Empire). That book makes it plain that Atlantic City could not have become the resort it was without black help, yet blacks were expected to keep in "their place."
You can almost hear some of the same logic (or lack thereof) working in the anger directed at "Mexican" immigrants. It is hugely ironic that the website Take Back Our Country uses a stylized image of the Statue of Liberty's torch. (I am NOT going to link their website--if you really want to see it, you can find it.)
Maybe the folks who run the Tea Party, or who want to "take back our country" have forgotten what this country is all about.
So, here's a reminder.
It's about democracy--the people speak when they elect a president.
It's about the yearning to be free--that's why immigrants come here. Not so they can "drop" babies, but so they can be free.
Emma Lazarus captured part of the essence of this country when she wrote "The New Colossus."
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
This poem is engraved on a plaque that is placed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. So, people who want to "take our country back"--you may want to change what you stand for, or tear down the Statue of Liberty.
Oh, and just a little word--it's MY country too.
* A presidential candidate needs 270 electoral college votes to be declared "the winner."