Jewish World Review Dec. 21, 2001 / 6 Teves, 5762
That's a Gift for All Seasons
So we keep trying to figure out which way we should go, based upon what we now know.
In that regard, I have been looking at Gail Buckley's "American Patriots," a book that I think those of you who believe in giving books as presents might consider. It celebrates our nation while questioning its shortcomings. There is a special grandeur to it, and a seriousness that rises above any kind of superficial sense of our lives and our history.
"American Patriots," as the subtitle says, is the story of "Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm." In today's climate of national affirmation, that title has particular resonance, because Sept. 11 woke a number of black people up. This was especially true of those who were narcotized by ethnic narcissism and all the half-baked hostilities passed on to them by others within their group who have made claims based on Negroes "not being Americans" or being "Africans lost in America."
Buckley will have none of that. Nor will she pretend that the racial conventions of American life - through slavery, segregation and everything else that blocked complete access - did not exist. She lays it down like it was but perceives the role of black people in America's military as a heroic one, a role forged in the flame of battle. It is a role that demanded another level of discipline from people who were not treated fairly for quite some time.
In that respect, Buckley lets us know that black Americans not only had to fight their way into the Constitution, but that every right that eventually was achieved was earned with blood, courage and will. No other group, she makes it clear, has more of a right - or should be more proud - to call themselves Americans.
For all the terrible stories told about black military experiences, one does not end up feeling sorry for the people she singles out. A reader comes to understand, yet again, the long heroic lines that define black Americans at their very best. One may come to see in the details just how unfairly they may have been treated, but one also watches them inching their way up, from outside to inside to the top of the inside when Gen. Colin Powell heads up the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In this holiday season, with so much to think about and, perhaps,
so many challenges yet to face, this book is an essential addition to
our collective identity as Americans. Pick this one up for your
friends, for your children, for
JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy
of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994, Always in Pursuit: Fresh American
Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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