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Theresa McCune: This is What I am

22 September 2010 Uncategorized One Comment Email This Post Email This Post

If my fellow Americans are against me for being Muslim, then they are against everything that I am, because I am a free American in a land of religious freedoms, who chose to exercise my right to “Freedom of Religion”. I chose Islam freely, independently, and privately. I was never coerced, or brainwashed. When I chose to submit my will to the will of the God of Abraham, I did so peacefully, calmly, and mindfully. It was by no whim, and it was not at the sharp end of a sword.

This is what I am:

I am a 44 year old mother and wife.

I am French on my mother’s side.

I am Scotch, Irish, Dutch, Polish and Swedish on my father’s side.

I’ve lived in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Hawaii, (my sister attended high school just down the street from Barak Obama), and Texas, but, I’ve lived in Texas more than anywhere else.

I am a board member of the local PTA.

I am college educated, but not yet degreed.

I am older than I look, and far younger than I feel.

I am a union trained full Journeyman Carpenter, of which I am very proud.

I have been asked both these questions: “Why are you forbidden from having jobs?” and “Why does your husband make you work?” I have worked in construction, demolition, and exhibit shops, and coincidentally, make more money than my husband.

We’ve lived the past six years with no heat in Winter, and no air conditioning in Summer, by choice, because what you learn to live without, you will never need again.

I am a professional member of both the Knitter’s, and the Crochet Guilds of America.

I have had several of my original knit and crochet designs published.

I am currently working on my certifications to become both a knit and crochet instructor through the Craft Yarn Council of America.

I like to make my own soap.

I try to commit random acts of kindness every chance I get.

I am an Army Veteran, also something of which I am quite proud.

I grew up an Army brat.

I was born in a military hospital, as well as my brother and sister.

I am the baby of the family.

My mother served in both the Air force, and Army Reserve.

My father was regular Army; a lifer, retiring after 20 years of service.

I actually had to fight to re-up into the Army National Guard/Reserve, only to be rejected because of my hijab. This was prior to 911.

My family, on my mother’s side was here before 1776.

My great, great, very great grandfather on my mother’s side (the French side) fought in the American Revolution. Mull that over while you supersize your “Freedom Fries”.

My grandfather, and all 5 of my uncles, on my mother’s side served in every branch of the US military.

I am the daughter of a man who sacrificed his sanity serving as a medic in a M.A.S.H. unit in Viet Nam, and who never received the proper care he needed, because his next assignment, having been sent stateside after a nervous breakdown, was Head of Medical Records. He never fully recovered.

I have been a Brownie and a Girl Scout, although I really wanted to be a Boy Scout, because they seemed to have more fun.

I am an avid recycler, and a lover of plants. My balcony is micro-jungle.

I am fluent in only one language, English, and I consider that a shortcoming, not a badge of patriotism.

I participate in the 4th of July parade in Arlington, alongside my brothers in Carpentry every year.

I have never committed a crime, save for traffic tickets.

I like fishing, hiking, camping, horseback riding, although I can’t afford it, gardening and just about anything outdoors.

My longtime dream is to own a small parcel of land in the country, where I could have a few rabbits, and a victory garden, as my mother always did.

I actually know what a “Victory Garden” is.

I sometimes argue with my husband, but neither of us ever wins. Ok, ok, I often argue.

I was a Muslim for a few years before I ever met him.

I married a Muslim, because I am a Muslim, not the other way around.

I wore hijab when I was single, and it has nothing to do with my husband.

I grew up eating Cheerios and watching Brady Bunch just like everybody else, and was always jealous of Cindy’s curls. As I got older, I wanted so badly to be Laura Ingles. I even wore my hair in braids, after my Dorothy Hamill cut grew out, of course.

I have experienced better treatment by strangers after 911, because they bother to stop and ask me questions; and I answer them. The line of communication between us has opened, and we are better for it.

I own my condo, so I pay my taxes.

I have worked at both McDonalds and Wal-Mart at some point in my life.

I have held as many as three jobs at once.

I spent eleven years as a single parent.

In high school, I had two paper routes, and yet, somehow ended up $50 in the hole by the end of it. My Mom paid it off, for which I am quite grateful.

I try my best not to end sentences with prepositions.

As a young girl, I took ballet, tap, gymnastics, and ice skating.

When I was 10, I got my first ID card as an Army dependent. I really thought I was something. It was like a driver’s license for kids. I whipped it out long before reaching the entrance to the PX, and waved it around like Mr. Bean, hoping everyone would notice.

Also, when I was 10, I wanted to become a figure skater in the Olympics, but the Army moved us to Hawaii, where no ice rinks existed, at the time, and so ended that dream.

I grew up going to country and blue grass music festivals with my dad.

When I was 16, I played the part of “Granny” in a Hee-Haw style cable show that my father and his friend put together. My father directed, and his friend produced. The other characters would say their lines, and I would give an overdramatic, comical response. I never had any lines myself, and you never saw my face, because I was too embarrassed to have the whole high school crowd recognize me. That was his dream, and at the time, I didn’t realize how much it meant to him, or how much it must have hurt when it didn’t work out. I wish I could tell him that I understand him now.

I once owned a Dressy Bessie, and a Raggedy Ann that my mother made for me….Ooh, and it had brown skin and maroon yarn hair! I had a black Raggedy Ann, now that I think about it, huh. I’d forgotten that, and the hair was only across the top, nothing in the back. I guess Mom ran out of maroon yarn. I had a Baby Alive, a Mrs. Beasley, and more Barbies than should be legal.

One tradition we had, was at Christmas, my mother would set out the nativity, but not the baby Jesus. She’d put real hay in the manger for the animals, and a little in a trough on the side. Every time we did a good deed, we got to put one piece of straw into the bed, so the baby Jesus would have a soft, warm place to lay on Christmas Day. I had quite a bit of difficulty in coming up with a number of good deeds that I felt was sufficient for a soft warm bed. It really worried me, so I would sneak pieces of hay into the bed when my Mom wasn’t looking, and of course, I got caught, and had to put it all back, and start over legitimately. I will always remember that.

As a child, I celebrated the Bicentennial with my family in Massachusetts, because we were stationed at Fort Devans at the time. I walked the Concord Bridge. I gazed upon the great crack in the Liberty Bell and pondered, “Why don’t they just fix it?”

I visited the Plymouth Rock, and wondered how they got a huge ship that far up the beach to be able to step out onto that rock. I was about 8, maybe.

I’ve stood on the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Honolulu, and stared down into the watery graves below, thinking about the young men whom I didn’t know, but tried to imagine as older brothers, then drove past the Japanese Cultural Center not far from there, on our way home.

I toured the Abe Lincoln Memorial with my family as a child, sat with my sister in Abe’s lap, for pictures. They’d let you do that back then. We toured the colonial homes of Sturbridge Village; breathed in deeply at the scent of old wood, apple cider, and bayberry candles, dug potatoes out of the ground, and bought bonnets for souvenirs.

I’ve pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America so many times, I can’t count. I grew up with a replica of the Declaration of Independence hanging on our living room wall along with copper eagles, flags, and other patriotic symbols my mother purchased during the great Bicentennial Celebration, and it meant something to me; that I was part of a great chain of heroic deeds, and sacrifices that links us all together. I felt I belonged to something very big. I think Mom still has all that stuff.

I grew up in a time when the radio in our powder blue station wagon played “this land was made for you and me”, and people were singing “united we stand, divided we fall”. Remember the spirit of those words, and keep them alive for the next generation.

When I say the pledge of allegiance, I don’t put my hand over my heart. I salute, because once a soldier, always a soldier. My loyalties didn’t die when I took off my uniform and put on a hijab.

I am proud of my for-fathers and the sacrifices they made.

I am proud of the long, honorable history of military service in my family.

I am proud of all my uncles, my father, grandfather, mother, and all who came before me, and gave of themselves, for my sake and the sake of those to come. Please, honor their sacrifices, and do not fall victim to the divisive influences of a frenzied political climate that ultimately mocks and disgraces all we hold dear. Don’t let the loud hateful cries of a few, drowned out the calm, sober voices of us all. If you want to know what a Muslim believes, go and talk to one, directly. If you want to know how they think, read their books. You won’t learn anything about performing brain surgery from the Maytag repair man.

I was shocked and appalled at the events on 911….because I am an American…..and because I am a Muslim. I don’t burn bibles……or any books. That was something Hitler did. Knowledge is sacred, information is empowering, and ignorance isn’t bliss!
I don’t burn down churches, in fact, I’ve helped to build one; First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, of which I am also, very proud.

I don’t burn flags either, because American flags once covered the coffins of my father and grandfather, and will cover my mother’s, and eventually mine. We were born under this flag and we will die under this flag.

The events of 911 were attacks on me, too, for being an American, and a betrayal on me, as well, by the individuals who claim to be my brothers in Islam. They were not any Muslims I know, and I can’t imagine what level of hatred would bring a person to commit such acts of total destruction. I didn’t “come here” to take over America. My family has been here since before America. They had a hand in the founding of America.

I will not leave. I have nowhere else to go. The only people who can legitimately tell me I don’t belong here are the native peoples of these continents, but not because I am Muslim, but because, like most Americans, I am not native to this land.

If my fellow Americans are against me for being Muslim, then they are against everything that I am, because I am a free American in a land of religious freedoms, who chose to exercise my right to “Freedom of Religion”. I chose Islam freely, independently, and privately. I was never coerced, or brainwashed. When I chose to submit my will to the will of the God of Abraham, I did so peacefully, calmly, and mindfully. It was by no whim, and it was not at the sharp end of a sword.

This is what I am.

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One Comment »

  1. Ive read your heart felt words about your life and some of the choices you’ve made and I am quite impressed and proud of you and your great courage. There is nothing wrong with you or. the coices you’ve made oncontrary your what America is all about since it’s early concepcion. Be proud of who you are and where your from your friend Avelino Jr Herrera!

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