Capt. Khan and ‘The Body of An American’

The story of Captain Humayun Khan is all over the news now, as Donald Trump desecrates his name and challenges Americans to find the lowest moral ground in existence. Capt. Khan’s bravery earned him a resting place at Arlington National Cemetery. Kevin Levin’s new piece in The Daily Beast astutely tells the history of politics, race, and ethnicity at Arlington National Cemetery. Levin finds contemporary resonance in one of the most famous passages from John Dos Passos’ Nineteen Nineteen, “The Body of an American.” An excerpt from the article is below:

Writers such as John Dos Passos used the government’s official narrative of the Tomb’s significance to highlight the nation’s ethnic and racial fault lines. In one scene from his U.S.A. trilogy, Dos Passos brings the reader to the selection of the Unknown in France with the question, “how can you tell a guy’s a hundredpercent when all you’ve got’s a gunnysack full of bones, bronze buttons stamped with the screaming eagle and a pair of roll puttees?” Another soldier responds: “Make sure he aint a dinge boys, make sure he aint a guinea or a kike.”