My father’s last name is Taylor. For very specific Michigan reasons, my last name is my mother’s and not my father’s, but I’m glad not to introduce myself as “James Taylor…no, not that one.”
The first of those Taylors was George. He was my 9th great grandfather. He left England for the Virginia Colony in 1635, fifteen years after the Pilgrims.
I found three records about George Taylor back in 1635, when he was a 20-year-old in the New World.
1. His name on a passenger list (This was before formal arrival documentation, let alone immigration status)
2. A deed for land purchased
3. A deed for Negroes purchased
Ancestry.com tells me that I’m part of the “Community of Early Virginia African Americans”. It also shows me how George Taylor’s Great-Great-Great Grandson moved from Virginia to Kentucky in the 1810s with the ancestors of those slaves to farm tobacco on land stolen from the Cherokee just 30 years before. An enslaved woman on the plantation gave birth to my Great-Great-Great Grandmother, Minerva. I don’t know when. The first time she exists as a person is the 1870 Census as a 30-something mother of six.
George’s 3rd great grandparent charted unknown waters for a new land and new opportunities. My 3rd great grandparent, Minerva, did all that and more.
That’s the story of America.
My last name is VanElls. The 1st of those VanElls arrived in America in 1856 when Andreas and Anna left the Netherlands for Ellis Island. They settled in Milwaukee. His son Henry got a good education, worked hard in a local pharmacy, and eventually opened his own business. The Van Ells building is still standing in Milwaukee.
That’s also the story of America.
America is the place where, if it breaks right, you can put your name on a building.
America is the place where, if it doesn’t, you might not even count as a human being.
Donald Trump didn’t start that. Donald Trump leaving office doesn’t end that. It takes the same level of organizing, messaging, and activism over the next four years that we had over the past four years.
There’s only one middle ground left. There’s only one place where Red America and Blue America agree.
There are two middle grounds left. Two places where Red America and Blue America agree. Dolly Parton is one.
Whether you’re a Progressive or a Conservative you feel like the government made a promise to you that it hasn’t kept. Most voters, regardless of party, feel cheated. We feel lied to. We feel like the people we elect to represent us don’t help us and don’t care.
I’m going to spend the next four years the same way I spent the last four years. Demanding those in power keep the promise they made to my family for longer than America has been America.