Great to Be an American!

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




4 thoughts on “Great to Be an American!

  1. It’s great to be an American! A good number of people in other countries evidently feel the same way, though certainly not all of them. As for blacks, I sense most are happy to be American, despite the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. I read recently, to my surprise, that Italians were second historically only to blacks as victims of lynchings in this country. I already knew, as many do not, that Americans of Italian descent were rounded up during WW II and held in internment camps. (Today, we just tear down statues of Columbus.) Still, I don’t know many Italians who would go back to Italy (though I wish some of them would).

    We have our share of home grown rapists and murderers, but some do come from across the border. I don’t usually think of President Trump as a champion of identity politics, despite the liberal press’s accusations of racism. He seems to have a grudge against Mexico, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, but he does tend to take things very personally, so something about Mexico at some point must have stuck in his craw. But then, he gets as ticked off with Canada and Germany. So much for racism as a motive here. He does seem to like Jews. Perhaps out of appreciation or just a brilliant sense of humor, a Jewish news magazine used a really funny Trump parody to send a serious message about Purim:

    People only make sense, one on one. As groups, not so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Can’t recall his name offhand, but a defender of Italians just died. Jeanette told me that she was warned never to go south of North Avenue, because that’s were the Italians lived (her family was German). For some reason, the Irish have fared better, but were always shown as monkey-like in cartoons of late 19th Century. But I think they were mostly the lynchers rather than the lynchees.


  3. South of North Avenue would be the former “Little Hell” neighborhood, first settled by poor Irish immigrants and soon after poor Sicilians, which gave rise to the Irish and Italian street gangs, and their respective, warring mafias. I wouldn’t want to go there either! Starting in the 1940’s the area was demolished to make room for the Cabrini Green low income housing and eventually high rise projects. Italians lived there initially but after the war they moved out when poor African Americans moved in and replaced the Italian gangs with black ones. The Brooklyn neighborhood where I grew up was a mixture of middle class Italian, Irish, Austrian, German, Polish, Russian and Jewish descendants, all of whom more or less co-existed. After NYC started offering generous welfare programs in the 1950s, an influx of poor Puerto Ricans moved into the neighborhood (one family rented space in our building which my grandparents owned), followed by blacks from neighboring Bedford-Stuyvesant. By the time of the Blackout in 1977 when the area was widely looted and burned and effectively a war zone, most of the whites had moved out. (We left in 1961.)

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s