Maybe if I didn't know the history of how this country came to be. Maybe if I wasn't keenly aware of how we came to be here in this country to begin with. Maybe if the first ship arriving with its precious human cargo to this country hadn't been forced to adopt the same 'values and beliefs' of its captors. Maybe if the man sleeping on the ground in front of the church across the street from my house wasn't a constant reminder of what this country has done and continues to do to a race of people through its 'pride and principles.' Perhaps if this country's wealth hadn't come on the backs, labor and lives of people who look like me. Maybe if I hadn't taken that course on the history of Blacks in the United States or read Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth. And maybe, just maybe, if from the beginning all men and women in this country had been treated equal and given the 'same opportunities to contribute and to reach their God-given potential'…I'd share Sen. John McCain's patriotism and the idea of 'country first.'
As the descendant of African slaves who arrived to the eastern shores of this country against their will and were forced to labor for men and women who looked a lot like Cindy and John McCain, I will never claim America as my country-let alone the idea of 'country first.'
It was the notion of 'country first' that enabled and empowered colonists from this country to travel across the Atlantic only to return with human cargo that would be used to build the wealth that America so often boasts about-wealth that was cultivated in tobacco and cotton fields by the hands of African slaves and their descendants.
'Country first' paved the way for White men with penchants for dark skin to have their way with those same female African slaves. It justified the mistreatment, including torture and death, of countless Blacks.
'Country first' forced African slaves and their descendants to adopt a language and a religion that to this day has us praying to a White man with blue eyes for our liberation while at times cosigning our own continued destruction.
McCain likes to tout his experience as a Prisoner of War and I say whoopdeedoo. Blacks have been prisoners of a war on their lives since the first shipped arrived in this country–at least at some point McCain was freed. My people are still waiting.
In front of an almost entirely White audience Thursday night McCain said, "I've never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I didn't thank God for the privilege."
I've never lived a day, in good times or bad, where I didn't witness the same privilege that McCain so freely boasts about. It's that same privilege that can allow presidential candidates to focus on how to save the middle class and say nothing about the men, women, and children who don't have a mortgage to save from foreclosure because they don't even have a home let alone money to pay for gas because they don't own a car.
And just to be clear-I'm not head over heels in love with Republicans or Democrats. In my opinion, neither Party has my best interest at heart.
As a Democrat with one foot out the door, I am not so quick to forget the statements from angry fellow Democrats about the "inadequate Black man" who went on to clinch the nomination or the anti-Black attitudes still prevalent among its rank and file members–including some who are Black!
At least with Republicans, I know exactly where I stand at all times-and that was reiterated in McCain's acceptance speech.
And I quote:
"We're going to recover the people's trust by standing up again to the values Americans admire. The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan is going to get back to basics."
Had I been born White, perhaps I could get with 'country first.' But I wasn't. I was a born a Black girl, a descendant of West African slaves brought here to toil in the fields and homes White men and women like the McCain's. And even though much has happened in the years since, all I ever have to do is look out of my window to be reminded of what 'country first' really means and it has nothing to do with securing America's borders, stabilizing the economy, providing healthcare for all, and an equal education to all children.
Adopting the belief 'country first' for me as a Black women, is to cosign the very policies that have oppressed Black people for years.
A country is only as good as the people who inhabit it. This country can't even agree to provide the same basic human rights to everyone who lives here. We're still too caught up in who was born here and who just arrived here.
I will never know the feeling of patriotism that McCain and others like him boast about. You will never catch me waving this country's flag. And while I am fully aware that there are Blacks, like my grandfather who is WWII Veteran, who have bought into this idea of country first, I'm not one of them.
I am not one of those Blacks who share's Pat Buchanan's opinion that America has been the best country on earth for Black folks and that I should be on my knees thanking his God for slavery and the Christian religion.
Not even with Obama's nomination have I been convinced that this country is on the road to changing its oppressive policies. Check back with me when both Parties agree that healthcare for all, regardless of employment or citizenship status is a top priority, and that reparations are in order for African-Americans.
Listening to McCain's speech just reminded me of the differences between those with privilege and those without. It's the difference between those who choose to conveniently forget or fabricate the history of this country and those who see it for what it really is.
So come November 4, my vote has less to do with which candidate I favor most, and for the record that would be Obama, but more to do with voting for the lesser of two evils. Nothing more, nothing less. Don't get it twisted.
At 30, Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. A regular contributor to NPR's 'News and Notes,' she was chosen as one Essence Magazine's 25 Women Shaping the World. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com or www.myspace.com/jasmynecannick.