Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
As we see the cruel, dark side of people revealed, we also see their counterparts—those who shine with compassion and truth. How did these people who grew up in similar circumstances and had similar advantages and challenges, come to be so different? Some would say we are all on a journey, but we travel from separate—often distant—points. Others would say we make choices and become what we do.
While he was still in the military, our son was one of the soldiers who traveled to France by invitation to represent the American troops of WWII. The locals shared the best of what they had with them—the best food, the best wine, and tears of gratitude—even these many years later. Such was the sentiment of those who had been liberated by Americans and their allies. They said they will never forget. Our son told us he felt proud.
Recently, I watched a program about the discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, a British scientist. With the advent of war, the world was desperate for the help of the miraculous antibiotic and needed it to be mass produced. Britain didn’t have the resources to tackle the job. The United States stepped up and its scientists figured out how to produce enough penicillin to satisfy the need. Americans were proud of their scientists and their contribution.
When protesters stood up to end the disastrous Vietnam War, we were proud. When civil rights workers—both white and black—marched, were beaten, and some murdered to change the hateful separation that had lingered after a long, bloody Civil War, we were proud. As women and minorities voted and people were finally allowed to marry whomever they loved, we were sure our country was finally maturing.
Recently, ordinary Americans used their hard-earned money to buy supplies—diapers, soap, clothes, blankets, toys—for the suffering divided immigrant families (especially the children) incarcerated for no reason but to demonstrate American cruelty to would-be asylum seekers. The humanitarians were turned away and their donations refused. I felt proud of them. When I saw the Inspectors’ photographs of people (women, men, and children of all ages) held in windowless rooms without enough space to lie down; without furniture, blankets, clean clothing, or access to soap or showers; without decent food or medical care, I was proud to know there are people throughout the nation who try to intervene. I was proud to hear from the local doctors who keep struggling to gain access.
I don’t believe in following a party line against all reason. I don’t belong to a political party. This year I couldn’t sing “I’m proud to be an American…” because I’m not proud of what we now represent to the world. Our forefathers would not have admired what is being done with our tax dollars in our names. They wanted independence because they believed “all men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We were not proud when the Jewish immigrants we turned away during WWII were exterminated, and later we changed our law to admit asylum-seekers. We are not “best” when we imprison people who are not guilty of any crimes, or when we give ourselves permission to kidnap and abuse children.
When scientists and reporters are treated like spies and foreign spies are treated as heroes, I am determined that I won’t celebrate Independence Day until I can feel the pride the American GIs felt when they helped liberate the concentration camps of WWII. I’ll celebrate when I’ve done all I can to resuscitate the country I love. I feel sorry for the woeful state of the souls of those who find cruelty acceptable. I feel sorry for the politicians and guards who slip into depravity. They need our pity more than the victims.