My home country celebrated its “independence” on Monday and my naturalized country celebrated its independence yesterday.
I heard fireworks – thankfully for not too long, as they were later drowned out by the humming of the ceiling fan and the overwhelming power of drowsiness – but I did not see any.
Thankfully again, neither I nor Mr. Rafia care about fireworks. The only fireworks I care about are Gandalf’s. “Fireworks, Gandalf! Fireworks, Gandalf!” I said yesterday, hoping Gandalf would heed my call. Unfortunately, he did not, because he’s a fictional character. Oh well.
Instead we celebrated, i.e. did something different than our usual weekly Barnes & Noble perusal, by visiting the Eiteljorg Museum, a museum I had not been to before, one devoted to Native American and Western Art. I thought: 1) As an IUPUI staff member, I get free admission, 2) if there is any right way to celebrate America’s independence, it should be to visit and learn more about the indigenous peoples of this land, and 3) I might see some cows!
Unfortunately, most of the depictions were of cows being strangled to death by cowboys. But I did see a beautiful painting of a buffalo emerging out of water. Buffaloes are bovine!
Also, I got a pic with these two lovelies at the museum gift shop:
In all seriousness though, it was sad to see the timeline of the displacement of the Native people. I think the most interesting exhibit was the photography collection from around the 1920s and onward, to see just how many Native Americans willingly fought in the wars of the 20th century, how they partook in all the typical “American” activities. The one most striking was a photo of a Native American boys baseball team. And their mascot? A Native American tribe! They also took part in the Roaring 20s. Very little do I see depictions of that in popular media. But, there were also photos of people trying to retain their own unique heritage all the same while.
It made me think of what is American.
Native Americans are the original inhabitants of this land, but they had to adapt… or at least, some at a time felt they had to. It also made me think about immigrants and how they too must adapt.
But maybe it’s not all forced. Maybe some of it is natural and desired? Was my own perspective colouring what I saw in these photos? Perhaps.
I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about America recently, most specifically about the concept of an “American Islam.” It’s been interesting to read how some Muslim Americans thread those two identities together. I must say, I don’t consider Muslimness as merely an identity. But when looking at it from the outside and how its articulated, it does take on the role of an identity.
I’m also beginning to have more nuanced understandings of hijab. Not from a theological perspective, but rather what it evokes and the power it has. Is it just a piece of cloth on my head? No, not for me. To me, it means so much more. It links me to a global community. It links me to a history. But it also links me to where I am right now: the United States in 2019. These thoughts have largely been inspired by a book I just finished a few days ago: The Politics of the Headscarf in the United States. I can’t say I would recommend it to everyone, because it’s a book written by political scientists — and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea — but I really enjoyed it.
And now I’m reading a book about America’s fraught relationship with religious minorities. I hope it will help in explaining the current sociopolitical environment. But even if it does not, Sacred Liberty seems like an appropriate book to start to read this week.