MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 23, 2011: An Inspiring Redefiner

First, a link (not to this post itself, although it’s interesting as always from Digby, but to the NYT Magazine story to which she links, and which I believe you can read login-free if you go through her site):
Jose Antonio Vargas, the author of that Times Magazine story, has been well-known for some time as a Pulitzer-winning journalist; but in this lengthy and incredibly powerful essay he outs himself as an undocumented immigrant, and more exactly as precisely the kind of American identity whom the DREAM Act is meant to aid—came to the US as a very young kid, made a success of himself in this home land including college and much after, and has more than fulfilled every possible promise he possessed and opportunity he earned.
Jose isn’t stopping at sharing these potentially controversial but also deeply inspiring experiences, though; he has created a website and project, Define American (http://defineamerican.com/), where he hopes to use his story and the many, many American stories like it to help revise and strengthen two types of crucial national narratives: the specific ones about illegal immigrants and immigration overall; and the broader and even more vital ones about who is and is not an American. It no doubt goes without saying, even for those who know me only through this blog, that I am fully and admiringly and gratefully in support of what he’s doing; not only his work with these crucial national narratives, but also and even more strikingly his willingness to open up about his own, far-too-often attacked but entirely impressive, American identity and experiences.
On the other hand, I suppose it’s possible for someone to dismiss Vargas’ efforts, his work to change these broader narratives, as simply (or even partly) self-justification or –rationalization, as an attempt to legitimize his own otherwise illegitimate identity. (I would hope that no one would feel that way after reading his piece or checking out the website, but of course a large part of adhering to simplistic narratives often entails not engaging with the evidence and texts.) Which makes it that much more vital for those of us with no conceivable personal stake in this equation to express both support for Vargas and, even more significantly, our own shared beliefs that if American is to mean anything genuine and important, if it is to comprise a community that’s more than just geographic or political or legal, that’s human and interconnected and inspiring, it simply must include, and should in fact celebrate, an identity and life like Vargas’.
You know me well enough to know, I hope, that I’m not going to tell you what to do. But there are many options on the Define American site for getting involved with Vargas’ work, and I think they’re all great ways to support these efforts. More tomorrow,
Ben
PS. No more links needed, but what do you think?

UPDATE. Read a story about Vargas on msn.com's homepage, and one of the reader comments that had received the most "likes" read simply: "arrest and deport him." These are among the very high stakes, just in case it wasn't clear; whether Americans like Vargas will be welcomed into our (and their own) national community or forcibly removed from it.

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