Not an American
No, I am not an American. I was born and raised in the US, and will probably die here, but I am not an American.
In a giant box hardware store, I approached the heavy hand tools rack: shovels, sledge hammers, axes, that sort of thing. There was a new style of ax hanging on the rack. Another man was there admiring the display. I took the ax out, felt its heft. In one hand, I held it behind my back as if to swing and chop downward in front of me. It was a tad light, but I liked the way the blade was cast extra wide and how the edge was ground. I’ll try to buy one like that with my next paycheck if nothing better comes along. The man asked me about it and we discussed the differences between various types of axes and how they should be used.
By the way the conversation went, you would not know he was of a different race. It didn’t matter at that moment; we met on common ground, speaking the same language with pretty much the same accent, etc. A moment later he was talking to his wife. What I overheard was familiar in one sense, but radically different from the man who just finished chatting with me about working with axes. I was totally unsurprised; the man was black.
The ways in which we as humans overlap are actually more varied than the ways in which we can differ. But our human differences are more fundamental than is recognized by popular social orthodoxy. Could I live in his world? Sure, if it was worth it for some reason. He certainly had no trouble entering mine; that’s what he did by choosing to address me in “white talk.” He could have spoken in some other patois and I would not have batted an eye, would have understood and talked with him just the same. He did what he felt was best for the moment. I doubt any of us could answer why we might choose one path or another in the minute risks of such situations. We calculate from our own inner perceptions. That’s how it is. Was he an oppressed minority, forced to cater to the whims of an arrogant race? Only in the wild imaginations of a tiny few whiners. He could have chosen any number of options, but seemed to enjoy our conversation. He told me all sorts of details of his life which weren’t necessary, but served to open channels of understanding. At that moment, we were men talking about manly things we did with axes and stuff, and we shared a mutual manly respect.
Any crusade to change and improve things is doomed, built on false motives. That’s because a crusade is always wrong. Every crusade has the intent of forcing someone else to surrender something. It won’t matter which of the options is closer to perfection, no matter how you measure such things. The problem is so fundamental, it won’t matter which flavor of culture or civilization you represent. The problem is that this world is permanently broken and cannot possibly be fixed. God said so, in no uncertain terms, but people insist on missing that. He also offered a general outline of optimal existence, the path of least sorrow, and people ignore that, too.
My personal identity is tied to that path, as best I can understand it. I’m a Christian Mystic, a man Not of This World. I don’t take seriously any human concern as typically recognized. The only thing I take seriously is glorifying God in the prescribed fashion, pointing all eyes to another plane of existence. Doing so means I have to reject the importance of any other factor of human identity. My citizenship in some particular political entity on earth means nothing by comparison.
So was that fellow in the hardware store was racist by presuming on the probabilities based on my appearance? Would he have taken umbrage if I had initiated the conversation and done the same thing? I have no idea and I don’t really care. He wanted something from me and made a guess how he could get it. So far as I know, he got what he was after. He showed distinct signs of not wanting to end the conversation. Nor was it essential I stop the conversation by trotting out the Four Spiritual Laws of maybe the Roman Road and evangelize as most American Christians might, if they followed their own religious apprehensions. I definitely want no part of Decision Theology. God’s glory isn’t in that, either. It’s just another flavor of cultural arrogance pretending to be from the Bible. I’m willing to bet that man was already well endowed with his own version of that, given what few clues I could gather on the question.
Pretty messed up that such thoughts would pass through my mind? Maybe so, but awareness is simply the result of my own peculiar experiences in life, and so it was with him. You can read a million things into every little element of your daily experience. After being hammered by vast hordes of fools bearing tons of propaganda, it’s easy to get lost. Instead, it’s more sane to say simply that I’m not an American, whatever that means, simply because I know I’m none of the things everyone else seems to claim about it.
I belong to another nation, scattered throughout this world by God’s design. There will come a time and place when all this is over. I’m looking forward to that. In the meantime, I have His standards for living here, and those standards include a conscious rejection of even the most fundamental assumptions about reality as found among the majority of those who reveal their assumptions. Sadly, if I simply say I’m a Christian, that would only confuse things in most people’s minds. It’s the same reason John the Baptist denied he was the Second Elijah. He was, but saying so would mean embracing the false ideas of those who were asking. But I have to say something because that’s part of what God requires of me. Sometimes I state it pointedly; at other times, I simply show it.
Whatever you want to make of my identity, it starts with being alien to this world, the whole thing.