Hello, my name is Sandy Lieberman and this week I decided to hijack my husband’s blog. Many of you have met me before; some of you have not. For those of you whom I have not had the pleasure of seeing face to face, let me briefly introduce myself…
I am an American.
I am also a business woman, educator, mother, wife, student, chef, and… I would like to think, somewhat of an intellectual. (After all, I have to put up with Steven’s vocabulary.)
I am far more politically conservative than my husband is, yet (shockingly) we complement each other, and genuinely discuss politics for the purpose of understanding each other’s position, not for the purpose of “winning” an argument, but for the purpose of pure learning. (Though, truth be told, I always win.)
I like men. Apparently in our new world I have to positively state my sexual orientation in order for you to understand me. I’m not entirely sure how this is relevant, but oh well… I guess now it is out there.
I am a Christian.
Does the fact that I have a different faith from my husband affect our marriage? Well, no. Is it supposed to? Once Steven and I were out with some of my friends (also Christians), and one of my girlfriends told both of us that she would only date “good Christian” men because knowing their character and their morality was important. My Jewish husband did not even blink when she said this. This is one of the reasons I love him as much as I do. This “friend” of mine just insulted my husband directly to his face, and rather than counterattack, he simply took the barb, so as not to make me feel uncomfortable. Not to worry… I lit into her.
There is also an obvious aspect to who I am, and it is readily apparent when you see me: I’m Asian, more specifically, I am Korean-American.
No. Scratch that.
I am American-Korean.
This distinction is important. My husband has written here before many times about tribalism, and what he calls the “victim industrial complex”. I want to make this more personal and absolute: If you dare to define me based on my gender, my age, or my ethnicity, your intellectual value, to me, is marginalized. You want to define me based on my patriotism and my identification as an American… fine… I encourage that. But don’t you dare make presumptions about who I am based on ludicrous intangibles like my gender, faith, or skin tone.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
The other night Steven and I had dinner with some friends and colleagues. There were eight of us: all different ages, two lawyers, a writer, a couple of business owners, the rest professionals as well. We span multiple religions and ethnicities. A couple of us are racially “blended”. We ate at a Lebanese restaurant and smoked hookahs. (Yes… I smoked a hookah.) Part of our discussion involved “Americanism”.
While all of us at that dinner exist at a different place on the “right / left” spectrum, there was one thing that absolutely united us: We are Americans.
This is not an addendum to who we “really” are. I am a not a female American. I am not a Conservative American. I am not even a business owner, heterosexual, interracial, or interfaith-married American.
“American” is not, nor should it ever be, seen as an afterthought or a modifier. Quite the opposite. It is my chief defining characteristic. All other things are subtext at best.
If we are truly going to come together as a country, we need to first come together as a nation. We need to have a common identity and we need to celebrate, not dismiss, that identity. This does not mean we are all the same. My background makes me who I am and provides value to what my husband has called the American Tapestry. Each of us is different, but our commonality should be in our shared connection to the American Experience. (Look, let’s be honest here. Some of the “American Experience” has not been ideal for some ethnic groups…including mine. I get it. But that does not mean we negate our connection to America… it means we assert it!)
I am tired of people claiming to speak for me, loudly proclaiming that I need their support (and access to governmental power) in order to advocate for me. Screw you! I can advocate for myself quite competently, thank you. If I need guidance, I, and I alone, will seek out your counsel… Don’t waste my time coming to me… and under no circumstances are you ever given my permission to speak on my behalf!
I am an American! But what does that actually mean? I wasn’t born here. English was not my first language. When I crave comfort food, I drag my husband to Korean restaurants, not the hamburger stand. Does being an American mean I have blindly wrapped myself in our flag? Hell no! I criticize the government all the time! That ALONE should make me an American! Not because I do criticize the government, but because I live in a country where I am FREE to criticize the government.
Does being an American mean that I have somehow adopted some level of jingoism, nationalism, or unquestioning fealty to the government in power? If you think it does, you didn’t read the preceding paragraph.
Being an American means I am not bound by class. It means that I am free to transform myself when I desire. It means, at its most basic level, that I have been granted rights from the Creator… among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. My government was established for the singular purpose of securing these rights.
I am an American… that alone should speak to who I am.