Great to Be an American!
By Patrick F. Cannon
I was seven years old when World War II ended. It truly was a world war, and much of that 1945 world was full of rubble and hunger. I can remember more than once hearing the phrase: “we’re lucky to be Americans.”
Although approximately 400,000 men and women in our armed services had died during the war, the country was largely untouched physically. The rest of the world wasn’t so lucky. No one knows for certain, but roughly 75 million people died as a result of the war, and cities like Berlin and Tokyo (and many others) were reduced to rubble. Visiting them today, it’s hard to imagine what they looked like then. With the help of their victors – that’s us – and free market capitalism, they’re just as expensive to visit as New York or San Francisco!
It’s still great to be an American, but it occurred to me recently that not all of our fellow citizens might feel quite so fortunate. How would you like to get up in the morning and realize that some of your fellow citizens despise you, even though they have never met you? To them, the color of your skin or your religion are enough to earn their undying hatred.
I wonder at what age a young African-American, or Jewish, or Muslim, or Hispanic boy or girl comes to the realization that some of the people they meet on the street either look right through them as if they didn’t exist, or look at them with contempt or even fear? I’m sure many of their parents try to forewarn them, and no doubt that helps a little, but when the bigotry becomes obvious the first time, it must be a profound shock.
If you know your history, you’ll know that hatred and fear of “the other” is nothing new in America. Once they lynched black men; now they shoot or bomb black children. Anti-Semitism has never reached the scale here that it reached in Germany in the 1930s and 40s, but the recent murder of Jews in their synagogues grows out of the same impulse. And how does the young Hispanic feel when the president describes those crossing the southern border as “rapists and murders?”
The president and so many others don’t see people as individuals, but as members of a race, religion or class. They would all do well to read the Declaration of Independence (many no doubt would be doing so for the first time), and heed these words:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…”
Now, it’s true that Thomas Jefferson and others responsible for the Declaration were slave owners, but they believed the sentiments were correct and attainable. After nearly 250 years, isn’t it time for that “all” to come true?
In a long life, I have lived, worked and served with men and women of all races and most religions. Unlike Will Rogers who said he “never met a man he didn’t like,” there were a few I wish I’d never met, but it wasn’t because of anything but their (to me) failings. Can Donald Trump and his followers say the same?
Copyright 2019, Patrick F. Cannon