Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where Were You?

I was in Chapel Hill, NC, sitting in a graduate anthropology class on chiefdoms six years ago today. We took a short break to go across the hall to our office and Theresa told us all the news. One friend's father was working at the Pentagon. Others knew people in NY. All of us were stunned.

I taught class that day and we mostly sat with the tv on and talked about the attack. In the days and weeks to come, I spent a lot of time thinking about what it all meant and wondering if archaeology was the best way for me to serve my country.

My first impulse was to join the military, but I shouldn't have to lie about who I am in order to serve. They shouldn't make me a security risk by forcing me to be closeted.

So I joined the State Department instead, where I could be open about who I am, and for the last three years I have served my country as a diplomat. I am proud of my service even when I am not proud of my country. But for all its flaws, it is still the best deal going, and having been overseas, I still think America does most things better than anyone else. I still think America is the best country on the planet.

But now, and maybe this is partly a function of turning 40, I wonder if I might better serve my country by going back into archaeology. By teaching people that our country's history did not begin with the landing of the Mayflower or even the various explorers before that. Maybe teaching people about my history, as an American Indian, is also service. Maybe reaching out to other Indians is a good way to serve as well, because we are part of the tapestry of this country and part of what makes this country strong.

I don't know what I will do. I like my job and I continue to be proud to serve. But I love archaeology. It is important to me to serve. I am just not sure how.

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