Such Native Roots

There’s an interesting store in the local mall that had intrigued me for a long time. I’ve never been inside until today; I just passed by the window display and tried to ignore it every time. Occasionally I took pictures of the same two t-shirts, a red and a green one. One day the store was empty and another merchant was occupying the space. I made a mental note of relief that it was gone.
Today I found “Native Roots” in a different part of the mall, occupying a slightly larger space. I decided to go inside and strike up a conversation with the shop assistant. I passed by beautiful hand-made native knick-knacks, adorned leather, some beads, jewelry, some colorful dresses, wooden boxes, belts, and other unique items you can’t find anywhere else.
An entire wall had nicely folded t-shirts on wooden shelves, the very same two t-shirts I had passed by for years in the window of the previous location. I assumed such native items are very popular in the upscale mall in Fairfax County, one of the richest counties in the nation. How else could they afford the expensive rent?
The shop assistant was a native Ecuadorian who was proud of their help for the native tribe whose wares they were selling. She did not mention the name of the tribe or whether the tribe was Native American or an indigenous tribe from Ecuador. I only hope their stuff was not made in China.
I brought up the two t-shirts that had bothered me for a long time – still prominently displayed and sold in numerous colors. One was adorned with pictures of Indian chiefs with the phrase, “Homeland Security – Fighting Terrorism since 1492.” The second t-shirt was a composite of four Indian chiefs superimposed over the American Presidents on Mount Rushmore, with the words, “The Original Founding Fathers.”
I am a naturalized American citizen and I certainly resent the fact that I and my fellow Americans are called terrorists by these people. I asked the woman how she felt about those t-shirts. She responded that this is the Native Americans’ country and we are all terrorists because we took it away from them in 1492 when Columbus discovered America. What does that make you, I asked her? She gave me a blank stare.
I also asked her what the name of the country was when Columbus discovered it. Which tribe was killing their neighboring tribe for supremacy at the time? Do nomadic tribes living here and there make up a country and how do you claim a country? Do borders, language, and culture make up a country? If not, how do you define a country? She did not answer any of my questions, she just shrugged her shoulders.
I am not sure what these Indian chiefs, “original founding fathers,” have founded. She wasn’t able to clarify that matter either.
I tried to explain to her that commerce is based on appeasing all customers; she and the owner of the store must be appeasing the hate-fringe in America who believes that we have no right to our own country because we took it unjustly from natives. There is not one country on the planet that was not established either by occupation, conquest through war, or through a massive land purchase.
How did she expect the rest of America to buy her hand-made merchandise when she is calling her customers terrorists? What kind of business model is this? It seems to me like a business model built on hate, on disrespecting the country that has taken her in as a resident, legal or illegal.
She told me in her broken English that I should address those questions to her Ecuadorian boss.

2 thoughts on “Such Native Roots

  1. Ms. Johnson,
    My comment is meant to be a reply to the articles I read among the many you wrote so far …. Should we have never met in a store in town a few weeks ago, I would have never gotten the opportunity to read your wonderful articles. Beautifully written, in a straight and sincere way, they all do drive your point home every single time! So, I would like to thank you, especially for the ones concerning Romania, past and present …. I am saddened to admit that many persons of Romanian origin, young or older, I met here in the States do not share your (and mine) conservative views … It is such a great feeling when you recognize similar ways of thinking… I also especially appreciate the article you wrote related to the interview taken in 2015 with the historian Neagu Djuvara! …

    I would especially like to thank you for another article of yours, dated December 17, 2016 with regard to nursing homes being a constant necessity in the daily live but always being an avoided subject by so many … I totally agree with you when you mention that a visit to the local long-term facilities should be a required visit for any young adult in high school or college! It can and should be an eye-opening event, for aging is a fact of life and not a disease …
    Related to this (and to your own road to citizenship so well described in your book, ‘Echoes of Communism’, which is great book by the way) I have a small story to share and I sincerely hope you do not mind me doing so! … I too came to US from Romania in my twenties after the communism ended, as a graduate student … I fell in love with this country that received me with open arms and with such an enabling attitude towards hard working people willing to put their mind and body to obtain whatever they dream of! Short story: I decided to make US the country I now call home and am very proud of it! Along the many years I spent here, I pursued many degrees and careers, but most importantly, one related to your article: I made my mom’s dream come true! A few years after my arrival, she came to the US with no word of spoken English. While living here she made it a goal to learn to speak the language and to work so she can earn her own money … she worked very hard in assisted living facilities in many states including Virginia and was very saddened to experience what you describe in your article about conditions and resources in long-term facilities … She decided to one day be able to provide good care to the ones in need and this became thus a priority for me as well. We both trained well to become good providers and now we are: we provide care for the Elderly in our own family assisted living (Love’Em Care, licensed for only persons) … This all took many years of hard work, training and dedication (I am very proud and cannot write further without mentioning that my mom is now a Certified Nursing Assistant, Medication Administration Aide and Dementia Practitioner and all the required exams and training being passed in English!)
    … Important is that now we are able to give back to the society by providing care to the Elderly and to their families at the same time by ensuring that their loved one is well cared for receiving the help they need and when they need it.

    The reason I shared my story, and again I sincerely hope you do not mind, is that I am writing as an advocate for small assisted facilities that get overlooked or not considered seriously by families in need of placement for their loved ones. There is often more to be offered in these places that provide more flexible settings and many times at a more affordable price. I sincerely hope that families reading this comment and have members with a need of long-term placement will consider this option too when taking such an important and difficult decision for their loved one.
    Thank you for taking the time to read my long reply and thank you so much again for all your writings and work. I am looking forward to the many more articles you’ll write! It is much appreciated,

    Alina Kline

    • Thank you, Alina Kline, for the much-needed work that you and your mom provide to our society. You are a classical example of the American dream fulfilled through hard work and determination. I will share your story, with your permission, with my Facebook friends and with those who follow my author page as well. I am humbled to have met you and your mom in Walmart. What a serendipity day that was!
      God bless,
      Ileana Johnson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *