ON BEING 79

I was conceived soon after the Stock Market crash of 1929 and arrived on the scene 79 years ago. My early memories of life reveal men repairing streets or artists entering our elementary school to paint beautiful images on the wall. I was raised in the south Bronx in a neighborhood inhabited by poor east European jews so I invariably break into laughter reading nuts on the Internet who rant about Jewish bankers. We were the only congressional district in America in which the Republican party came in fourth. I never had a Christian child in my class until the 7th grade when Joseph Jelik showed up.

I frequently tell my children that we had hope in the future and much credit for that attitude derives from President Roosevelt, his wife, Eleanor and our Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. We actually believed those who led government would help us. We had caring Irish politicians who would help us get jobs, take care of minor criminal activities, and guide us through the process of politics and voting. I so miss Irish politicians, they never would rant and rave like the current crop of idiots in Congress.

I accepted poverty as a norm and today am furious when I hear people refer in disparaging terms to legal or illegal immigrants. I was raised with legal and illegal immigrants and laugh reading their grandchildren declaim on the horrors of illegals. I knew people who entered America via Canada or Cuba.

As an immigrant child (in 1914, one out of four Americans was an immigrant or child of an immigrant) I was taught to love America and respect its institutions. I felt so proud entering the armed forces taking the oath to defend the Constitution. Most haters in the Tea Party group have absolutely no idea what is in the Constitution. By the way, we received lectures during Basic Training about respecting the Geneva Convention. Obviously, since draft dodgers Bush and Cheney never served they never received the lectures about not torturing prisoners.

I grew up to write a history of America and my thoughts and dreams are always linked to this nation. I respect the basic values of freedom of speech and assembly. In my childhood I was bigoted against gays and lesbians and it has taken me years to confront my own bigotry and come to respect and admire lesbians and gays. I was raised in segregated world and while in the US Army helped write the integration plan for the US Seventh Army. I cried when Obama was elected.

Eighteen of my initial 20 years of life was under a Democratic president. Eisenhower became my first Republican president and I respected him, but today, the virulent hatred towards Clinton and Obama reveals an undercurrent of bigotry and hate such as we have not often seen in American history. Those of you who rant your hatred of the health insurance plan represent everything that violates the essential American respect for calm discussion.

I teach and always point out to students the following facts:
1. The Democratic Party is the oldest continuous political party in the world.
2. The Constitution is among the great documents in history and at the core of this wonderful document is respect for the views of those who you oppose– respect, not hate.
3. We never experienced a military attempt to overthrow our civilian government.
4. We only had one revolution –the Civil War– and after it was over, we again became one nation.

I confess to having a love affair with America. I confess the current madness of Tea Party crazies is shocking, given their ignorance. Actually, none of them has any understanding of the American Revolution– we Americans would never have won without aid from the French Army and navy– they were more important than “Minute Men.”

At age 79, I admire young people and their openness to those who are different. I admire those who fought for this nation in WWII and the Korean War. I feel such sorrow for those who served in the Vietnam war. I do not always agree with Barack Obama, but as an American I intend to give him an opportunity to develop plans of action.

I simply want an end to the hate of Fox News and the idiot group of Bill O’Reilly, Lou Dobbs, and Rush. I have never encountered such a group of men who deliberately lie. Doubt is a stranger who has never knocked on their doors. Frankly, the current yelling and screaming of Tea Party crazies makes me wonder if I am still living in my beloved America.

To sum up, I love this nation and am the first to decry mistakes by the man I voted for–Barack Obama. That is the American way of life. Do all I can to support the president, but tear him to pieces if he violates the Constitution. Be angry at oppression of poor people, the homeless and the powerless. I never forget the eloquent words of Eugene Victor Debs, candidate for president in 1912 on the Socialist Party ticket:
“I do not wish to rise from the working class. I wish to rise with the working class.”
If you are a real American you cannot sleep peacefully as long as your fellow Americans lack decent jobs, health care, free early childhood access and an end to discrimination. If you are a real American, reach out in love and peace and reconciliation to those with whom you differ

My heroes in America are: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Gene Debs, Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman.

I hope one day to add Barack Obama to that list.

  • http://fayfreethinkers.com Darrel

    Very well said Fred.