E Pluribus Unum


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“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus

I didn’t grow up a very patriotic child. I was confused by the contradictions in my life.  At Catholic school, we obediently pledged allegiance and sang in our sing-song voices of the “Land of the Pilgrim’s Pride”.  Then, at home, I watched my much older siblings being swept up in the hippie movement with its slant against blind patriotism. They sang, “This land is your land.” My reaction was to take a more passive role, choosing neutrality over activism. In truth, I was caught between two worlds. I wanted to be the “good” child: school was where I thrived, after all. But I looked up to my brother and sister, and longed to join their causes.

If there was anything I believed about my country as I was growing up, however, it was the above quote and its passionate sentiment. One of the most important and special aspects of my country was its welcoming arms to immigrants. This I saw with my own eyes. This I could understand, because it resonated in my own family and the families of my friends. My mother’s family was from the Ukraine. My paternal grandmother still spoke the German of her parents, and my surname, given by my paternal grandfather, hailing from Ireland, was Kane.  My little working class neighborhood in Jersey City was home to my friends Susan Calabrese (Italian) and Paul Zukowsky (Polish). I had classmates who were African American and Puerto Rican. Lady Liberty stood proudly not far from where we lived and learned. So when they taught us that America was a melting pot, I understood this in my bones and in my blood. It made me happy, and yes, proud to be an American. E Pluribus Unum, it said on my coins: “Out of Many, One.”

Eventually, we realized that we should NOT promote the concept of the melting pot. The word “melting” implied a degree of assimilation that caused people to discard their ethnic traditions in favor of a blander American culture. Sadly, my husband Charlie’s grandfather gave up his Italian newspaper after little Charlie innocently asked him, “Can’t you read English, Grandpa?”  The reason was simple: first generation Americans fervently wanted to blend in, and rejected their old ways in their eagerness to become American. Only later, with hindsight, did we realize that this was not necessary. Or no longer necessary, because our society had reached a point at which cultural differences were not a threat, but a rich part of a beautiful tapestry being woven by the people.

So: out of many, not one, bland culture, but, indeed, one country. A country with a wealth of diversity and traditions, a multi-colored collage of individuals sharing the rights and freedoms our constitution bestows. Intoxicating stuff, really.

Not being a Pollyanna, I realize that problems have long persisted and prejudice and xenophobia remain insidious toxins. In spite of that, we have as a country been evolving in the right direction overall. Consider the fact that we just had a black president for eight years!

Until now. While I deeply believed that our open door to the “huddled masses” was a powerful part of our country’s identity that would never be rejected, it now appears that I was wrong.

Just days after the first Syrian refugees arrived here in Rutland, Vermont (a little family of four who came here for a better life for their small children), the entire refugee program is threatened to be discontinued due to Trump’s aggressive anti-immigration policies: treating all people of Muslim descent like criminals, and building walls between borders. This is not the America that made me proud. Are we becoming a place that people will flee from, rather than flee to?

Unfortunately, “reasoning” with the POTUS will get us nowhere. He is not a reasonable man. That is why last Saturday I joined the millions of protestors around the world to raise my voice against Trump. It was this formerly neutral child’s first protest march, and it was a powerful inspiration to stand next to my daughter and son among so many beautiful voices and spirits.

Tomorrow, I will join a group of protestors in Rutland, Vermont, to stand up and fight for the Syrian refugee program.

We cannot watch in helpless outrage as the very fabric of our country is unraveled.©

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Boston Commons January 21, 2017

A Dark Day

“The victor will never be asked if he told the truth.” Hitler

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A new day always dawns, even when your heart is heavy. And so the relentless march of time has carried us to this day, a day when a great deal will be lost. We are losing a president who, with his family, occupied the office with quiet dignity. He will be replaced by a man who belittles others, disregards longstanding ethical standards, ignores the law, and promotes values that are contrary to the very fabric of our constitution. A man whose primary motivation appears to be self-aggrandizement at any cost.

This is what we’ve come to; this is where we are.

What troubles me most is that so many people do not recognize the danger here. It goes even further. DT’s supporters have chosen to turn a blind eye to his OUTRAGEOUS behaviors: His lies, followed by denial of the lies even when faced with concrete proof. His flagrant treatment of women as sex objects. His derogatory comments toward minorities and the disabled. His refusal to follow the most basic guidelines of courtesy and civility. His tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.

In a society that has over recent years had its consciousness raised about bullying, we have elected ourselves a bully.

What does it look like to have a bully run a country? You don’t have to look far into the past to see a similar progression of events in neighboring Europe. Like DT, Adolf Hitler was voted into power at a time when the citizens of his country were disillusioned by the status quo. They were living with economic hardship and their hopes were diminished. They were ready to embrace someone who made grand promises, and to ignore the hollowness behind those promises. They were ready (and willing) to find someone to blame for their predicament, and to direct their anger there. And that anger grew into hatred, and that hatred became a murderous rage. Such a rage that 6 million were demeaned, abused beyond belief, and ultimately killed.
Don’t be mistaken! This was possible because the masses believed in a man who, like DT, convinced them that he would use the power with which they endowed him to improve their lives. A man, who like DT, had no regard for the truth, and equal disregard for humanitarian values. And whose popularity thrived despite those facts.

This frightens me, and what frightens me even more is the fact that so many people are not frightened of the damage this man can do.

I know that fear was, in fact, a significant element in this election. Fear of the changes that have taken place in our lifetime, that culminated in having a black president, gay marriage, and an overall diminishment of white privilege. Funny, the very changes that brought me the most joy in recent years are the things that our electorate masses fear. We truly live in a country divided.

After the election, it was very tempting to run away for good. We have a community of friends on Isla Mujeres. We are fortunate enough to have the means to make that happen. But in a big way, this would feel like jumping ship. I don’t want to be like a rat. Our children have to live with this, and it would feel like turning my back on them.

One of the most jarring realizations the election brought me was that the misogyny in our country is even more entrenched than the racism. If ten years ago you had asked me to predict what we would have first, a black president or a woman president, I would have guessed wrong. As a white woman, I resided in that cloud of privilege as well, though I hate to admit it.

I have had to rethink some assumptions. Watching how Hillary was demonized was sobering, and seeing DT’s behavior toward women normalized is sickening. I refuse to normalize what is happening before my eyes. Tomorrow I will attend the Women’s March in Boston with my gay son and my lesbian daughter. This is a small thing I can do. Writing this is another.

And – who knows? – maybe we will live on Isla for just part of the year, to bolster morale for the fight.©

Finding My Voice

 

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January 2017

For the last year and seven months, I have been documenting our journey and my reflections along the way. Now our traveling has come to a lull. We think in terms of months, rather than days or weeks. It has become difficult to keep blogging, because there is less new material, as I have mentioned before.

Now, it is time for my writing to take a different turn.

In November, while we were enjoying our stay on the Jersey shore in the town of Ventnor, DT was elected by a minority of voters to be the first Un-President of the United States. I deeply fear that this may be catastrophic for our country and its citizens. This turn of events has divided our people, and instilled fear in many. We have yet to see what will happen when this racist, misogynistic, and dangerous man takes office, but many of us understand that the potential damage is great. Others maintain that we are being “sore losers,” and that this is just another election. I actually wish this were true!

Over the past month and a half I have been quietly witnessing the emotional accusations being flung back and forth over this issue. I have never been a very “political” person. I have always harbored the strong belief that any attempt to change the minds of those whose views oppose one’s own is futile. I have never intended this platform to be a political one, but I have recently been struggling with this. Why?

Because there are too many similarities between DT and other grandiose, despotic, fascist, and ultimately destructive leaders of the past. I do not see this political climate as just another election which a republican won. Donald Trump is dangerous, because of his personality. He does not represent the best interests of our citizens, but of a very narrow subgroup. He is impulsive, vindictive, lacking empathy, entitled, and has no regard for the law or the truth.

My conclusion is that I cannot quietly watch this happen without speaking out. I am going to start with this forum. I know that I have readers who will disagree, perhaps be offended by my views. But this is a place where I can practice having a voice, which is what I need to do to feel better personally, and also what I feel I need to do for my country.

I see many of the values that DT promotes as evil. (The way he treats women, people different from himself, the weak or disenfranchised.) I recognize that he has power.

Simply put: Evil + Power = Dangerous.

There are better places to turn for astute political discourse. I will be writing as one citizen, from my heart, with my particular humanistic/psychological slant. If this offends you, I apologize. Of course you can choose to close the page and turn your back on my viewpoint. But I urge you to stay, and to consider my perspective. We all need to do this, on both sides. We need to understand.

I cannot help but think that some of the voters who cast their vote for DT must also see that his personality, which he brings with him to this esteemed position, is a serious handicap. Some must have voted out of their sense of disenfranchisement, and/or their disenchantment with the status quo, and chosen to overlook the more sinister aspects to his persona. I know that I need to understand their disillusionment, for our divisiveness is a second layer of danger. If we are fighting amongst ourselves, we are easier to conquer.

On Friday evening, I sat around a dinner table with five dear friends, and the discussion was, to me, concerning. This was the first time that the six of us were all together since the election. I knew we would talk about what one member referred to as “he who shall remain unnamed,” borrowing from literature. But I was unprepared for the level of lassitude that my friends displayed. None of them agreed with my belief that we must take an active stand against what is happening. I understand this. I am 60 years old. and when I woke up on the morning of November 9th, I felt as if I had aged 20 years overnight. That feeling hasn’t gone away.

But we have a lot to lose. Everything, really. Our rights, our freedoms, newly won or longstanding.

And so I am exercising my longstanding right to freedom of speech. Do you remember the McCarthy era?

I was reminded of McCarthy on Sunday evening when Meryl Streep made her passionate and eloquent statement as she accepted her Golden Globe award. Do you realize that this was an act of bravery? Senator McCarthy was in office from 1947 to 1957. And he was a senator where Trump is President. Don’t fool yourself into thinking this couldn’t happen again. Meryl Streep is brave.

I want to end with the quote that Streep ended with, a quote that resonated with me deeply. She quoted Carrie Fisher, who once said to her, “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

My heart is broken, not only by the outcome of the election, but by they way our country is now divided, and even by the passivity I am witnessing among some of my peers. It was Carrie’s words that inspired me to get up this morning and write. They will become my mantra for 2017.©