Jim Loomis

Experiences, Observations, Opinions

Archive for the category “Patriotism”

PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN ???

Earlier this month I attended a country music review in Osage Beach, Missouri. As is common lately at the end of such shows, tribute was paid to military veterans. The performers sang parts of The Marines’ Hymn, The Army Goes Rolling Along,  The US Air Force song, and Anchors Away.  As usual, the fifth branch of our military, the US Coast Guard, got left out (Semper Paratus – United States Coast Guard Marching Song).

And of course the show ended with a rousing performance of Lee Greenwood’s song, GOD BLESS THE USA.

We were asked to stand to be recognized when the song of our branch of service was sung. Most of those who stood were men my age or older. A proud gentleman behind me stood at attention, ram-rod straight, when The US Air Force song was performed. I served in the Army during the Viet Nam War, and although I have somewhat reluctantly stood in the past, I did not stand this time. There are three reasons why.

  • In part, this ritual seems to be obligatory and has become rather meaningless to me.
  • I was not proud to be an American during Viet Nam. Yes, it feels good to be recognized decades later for the sacrifice that my family and I made at that time. But, like many others, I opposed the Viet Nam War. I would have avoided serving if there had been any way to do so, short of fleeing to Canada as many did. It seems inappropriate to mix the “thanks” that I am receiving with something that I did only because I had no choice. Such “thanks” is strangely mixed with the glorification of war. The “thanks” presumes that my contemporaries and I fought for some noble cause, or to keep America “free,” which was not the case.
  • I also feel uncomfortable because I was able (quite legally) to receive a commission as a Social Work Officer in the Medical Service Corps while many of my contemporaries where drafted into the service to become infantrymen fighting in Viet Nam. I never went to Nam. I did serve in South Korea in the Second Infantry Division that guarded the Demilitarized Zone, and I was in Panmunjom, the heavily guarded, now deserted, truce village on the border between North and South Korea. But I was providing substance abuse and mental health counseling to soldiers, and the risk of losing my life was fairly minimal. I was not shooting at anyone, and no one was shooting at me. I am proud of the work that I did in the Army, but now, years later, I feel that somehow I cheated the system, that I was privileged by my education and career choice, when others were not. It’s hard to simultaneously hold these conflicting emotions.

Since the inauguration of President Trump, as it was for me during the Viet Nam War and the ill-advised invasion of Iraq, I am not proud to be a citizen of the USA, which is rapidly becoming the laughing stock of the world. Please don’t misunderstand; I am grateful that I am free to write this without fear of being arrested. But the President’s values and the domestic and international policies that he is pursing are diametrically opposed to what I believe to be the nobler ideals of America. I’m sorry, Mr. Greenwood, and those of you who find this offensive, but I will not “stand up” for repression, repeal of health care benefits, a larger military with reduced funding for diplomacy, xenophobia, and immigration policies that separate American born children from their parents. These policies do not square with the lyrics of God Bless the USA,” Where “I am free,” all people should be free. “I love this land,” but so do many others who would also like to call America home. Yes, I will “stand up to defend this land” by striving to make America more just, more compassionate, and more welcoming to others. Formulating and defending American values begins and ends at home. We ourselves pose a greater threat to our freedom than do outsiders.

Independence Day represents an idea yet to be fully realized, not simply a celebration of something that happened 241 years ago. I hope that in the coming years that idea will come closer to fruition, and that I can again more honestly say that, “I am proud to be an American.”

In the meantime, I have chosen to no longer stand for these military tributes honoring my time of service in the Army.

 

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MEMORIAL DAY – 2017

A time of family fun, cookouts, parades featuring the local Boy Scout troop, the high school marching band, and a few scruffy Viet Nam veterans with gray pony tails, the playing of Taps at the local cemetery, a 3-day holiday weekend heralding the beginning of summer, and VFW members hawking red poppies in the middle of street corner intersections. (What’s the deal with the poppies?)

We celebrate the holiday, to be sure. But where did Memorial Day come from, also known as Remembrance Day in Great Britain?

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World War I: 10 million military troops died, 7 million civilians died, 350,300 US soldiers died. My wife’s grandfather convalesced in a sanitarium after the war fullsizeoutput_41dedue to lung problems caused by being gassed in the trenches of France. Of the approximately 200 soldiers in his unit that went overseas, only 28 returned alive! Had he not returned, my father-in-law, my wife, my sons, and my grandchildren would not be here today.

The company at Camp Custer, Michigan prior to going overseas (at top).        Those who returned (above). 

World War II (barely 25 years later): Our fathers’ war, both drafted into the Army. Total dead: 16 million military troops and 45 million civilians, including 407,000 US military personnel and 12,000 US civilians.

Followed immediately by the Korean War.

Then the Viet Nam War: The war of my generation. My brother-in-law loaded bombs onto US war planes in Viet Nam. I served in the Army in the Asian theater during the war. 58,300 US military men and women died. My high school classmate died in the early years of the war. My wife’s classmate became an alcoholic as an aftermath of the war and was killed in a shoot-out with police a few years later. In total, an estimated 450,000 to 1,170,000 died.

And since then, innumerable “minor” military actions, and now the War on Terror, lasting over ten years (longer than both World Wars combined), now morphing into a war to “wipe out militant Islamic terrorists.” I wonder if war in the Middle East will ever end. If we fail to heed what history teaches us, I fear not.

Lest we forget why we celebrate Memorial Day, I invite you to take a few minutes to watch and listen to these videos – click on the titles of the songs.

(You will also find out what the red poppies are about.)

WILLIE McBRIDE

also known as “No Man’s Land” and “The Green Fields of France”

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 (written by Eric Bogle following his 1976 visit to military cemeteries in Flanders and Northern France)
The song references two other melodies, the Last Post and Chorus and the Flowers Of The Forest.

THE LAST POST

During the 19th century, the “Last Post” was carried to the countries of the British Empire where it has been incorporated into military funerals and played as a final farewell, symbolizing the fact that the duty of the dead soldier is over, and that they can rest in peace.

“They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old.  Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.  At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

THE FLOWERS OF THE FORESTfullsizeoutput_41dc

A lament written for the army of King James IV (“the flower of Scottish manhood”), the army that was slain with their king on the Field of Flodden, September 1513.

You may remember the iconic protest song of my day, written by Pete Seeger, and made famous by the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, and Mary.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE?

“Where have all the flowers gone, lone time passing…gone to young girls everyone…where have all the young girls gone, long time ago…gone to young men everyone…gone for soldiers everyone…where have all the soldiers gone…gone to graveyards everyone…gone to flowers everyone.”

– And the cycle repeats –

“When will they ever learn…Oh, when will we ever learn?”

fullsizeoutput_41eeFor our Willie McBrides      a century later

it still happens again, and again, and again, and again!

Have a great holiday weekend, but

FIRST…REMEMBER! 

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An open letter to the President

On Monday I am mailing the following letter to the White House. I wrote it in a way that I hope will appeal to the President’s ego, just in case there is any chance that he or his staff might read it. I think that this approach is the only way that he might consider what I have to say. Depending on your political leanings, you might read this letter as a flattering account of his accomplishments, or as a veiled, satirical criticism of his handling of his job. Either way, I am truly serious about my proposal. I sincerely believe that both Mr. Trump and the country would benefit greatly if he were to resign. Please share with me and those who read my blog your thoughts and reactions, and your agreement or disagreement with my proposal (comment at the bottom of this page).   Thanks, Jim

 

May 20, 2017

Dear Mr. Trump:

Have I got a deal for you! Here’s how it works:

You declare victory and resign as the President.

Why should you do this now so soon after your inauguration?

  • You can legitimately say that you have turned the country in a new direction. This is what you set out to do, and it is a great accomplishment. Your name will go down in history as one of our most notable presidents.
  • You can say with pride that you came from behind to win the election in an unprecedented way. The last President who even came close to this was Harry Truman, and that was 69 years ago.
  • Your health care bill is off the ground.
  • The Supreme Court justice that you nominated was approved in record time, an accomplishment that will preserve the conservative interpretation of our Constitution for decades to come.
  • Wall Street has responded very favorably to your proposed tax cuts.
  • Unemployment is at its lowest level in years.
  • You executed a new trade deal with China that will increase our exports and reduce our trade deficit.
  • Major manufacturers are promising to bring jobs back to the US.
  • And, you have done all of this in just four months. No president can claim such accomplishments in such a short period of time. (We’ll just forget about FDR; that was a different set of circumstances anyway.)

What do you get out of the deal?

  • You can avoid this whole nasty, special prosecutor thing, saving yourself untold headaches and millions of dollars in legal fees.
  • Your detractors will no longer have anything to complain about; you won’t have to spend all of your time defending yourself against their short-sighted, limited ideas.
  • You can get back to doing what you do best: making lucrative real estate deals.
  • You can get out of that confining White House, and enjoy your many magnificent homes without having to commute every weekend.
  • Jared and Ivanka can get back to minding the business of their businesses.
  • Melania and Barron won’t have to be uprooted from your resplendent home in NYC.
  • You can play golf every weekend, wherever you want, without the press criticizing you for it.
  • But perhaps most importantly, you’ve clearly identified the big picture for our country, and gotten the ball rolling. You won’t have to muddy your hands getting all of your programs through Congress. Politics is all so messy anyway. Let those who have nothing better to do with their lives slave away at all of that minutia. That sort of grunt work is far below the dignity of a man of your stature.

What do the rest of us get out of the deal?

You will have given us a most generous gift that we will not soon forget. The specifics are innumerable, so I’ll only mention a few.

  • All of our news outlets will again report the significant events happening around the world, instead of their incessant torrent of fake news about the alleged shortcomings of your Administration.
  • We can break our addiction to checking your tweets the first thing every morning.
  • Our legislators can get back to work on the important business of passing the laws that will make America great again. They will no longer be bombarded with requests for interviews about their latest thoughts on your actions.
  • Mike Pence will be so boring as President that we won’t even pay attention to him.
  • This will allow him and Congress to fully implement your agenda — our agenda — without outside interference.
  • You will have given him a sure lock on the Presidency in 2021, allowing patriotic Republicans to ride into Congress on his coattails at least until 2025. That is a legacy that will last longer than President Reagan could have ever hoped for.

Mr. President, please don’t think that this offer is a tongue-in-cheek joke. I am very serious, and I am in good company. Even John Moody, the Executive Vice-President and Executive Editor of your beloved Fox News, suggested the same thing earlier this week. (In case you missed his editorial, you can find it here.)

This proposed deal has the added benefit of letting everybody think that they came away the “winner.” Of course, you will have outsmarted your critics and those far-reaching liberals, who will come up empty-handed without even realizing it. However, the longer you wait the less likely it is that this deal will achieve its fullest objectives.

Think it over. There aren’t many deals that get any better than this!

Sincerely,

James F. Loomis

Who controls what happens next ?

Again, I must confess. I am still addicted to the many, daily “tweets” from our President, and the non-stop news articles, comments, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and sketches responding to his actions, from both those of us at home and those abroad. I find some of what I see and read to be humorous, although they are always at the expense of someone else, and at the expense of my better judgement. I especially enjoy Alec Baldwin’s SNL sketches portraying Donald Trump. I see them as simply good-natured satire, and they provide me with some comic relief, which is a good thing. However President Trump clearly doesn’t see them that way. I guess that I wouldn’t either if I were in his shoes. I imagine that for him and for the half of our population who voted for him, they are not funny, but instead quite offensive. But mostly, the vast majority of what I have read and seen is simply very discouraging. It saps my energy and leaves me with a hopeless feeling.

If you follow my blog or pay attention to what I LIKE or SHARE on Facebook, you know that my political views lean left. Not surprisingly, I find our new President to be woefully unqualified for his job. See my posts of October 8 and November 1, where I outlined my criteria for the person who aspires to be the President, specifically characteristics of Integrity, Temperament, and Experience. Mr. Trump’s job performance thus far confirms my prediction that he fails to meet those criteria. At best, he only very minimally meets the criteria of Integrity, in that thus far he has done exactly what he promised to do.

That said, our response to his actions, either supportive or critical, have taken on a reactionary, obnoxious tone, leaving little room for civil discourse. Rather, they demonize the person(s) whose thoughts differ from ours. This is not the way to make our democracy work. Our government is already fractious and dysfunctional. We do not need to add fuel to that fire and/or to our own differences.

I am not arguing for inaction or passivity. We need to respond to our discouragement and feelings of hopelessness. It helps me to write this article to you, and I regained some sense of power when I participated in a peaceful demonstration in my community celebrating diversity and inclusion of others not like ourselves. But demonstrations alone are not enough. Yes, they give hope and a means to discharge strong emotions, and they can serve as a good starting point. But by themselves they do little to actually change anything. This is especially true when they only express outrage and negativity.

I am reminded of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. There were anti-segregation marches and protests, and many of my contemporaries participated in them. Many of those marches were led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. But there were four other essential elements to the success of the civil rights movement besides protest marches.

  • First, there were clearly defined goals.
  • Second, there was a strategy. Many marches were carefully planned to take place at a specific time and in a specific, symbolic place.
  • Third, there was much constructive work done behind the scenes. Let us not forget that Dr. King worked with President Kennedy to modify the original plans for the 1963 march on the National Mall in order to avoid violence. He also met with officials in the Johnson administration to plan how civil rights for African Americans could be codified into law and implemented.
  • Finally, the civil rights movement was firmly rooted in the basic principles of morality and hope. This is perhaps best exemplified in Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

At this time our protests are not only against Donald Trump’s actions, but also against him personally. While many find his character to be reprehensible, never-the-less he is, and will be, our President for the next four years. Of course, it is still too early in his Presidency for those opposed to his policies to form strategic plans to counter his actions. But such will be necessary in order to effect change. Meanwhile, the more we sling insults at him personally, and at each other, the greater our divisions will be.

Fortunately, there are some who are already following up their opposition with targeted action. Examples include the ACLU filing suit against Mr. Trump’s immigration and refugee proclamation, acting Attorney General Sally Yates’s refusal to defend the President’s ban on immigrants coming into the US, the cities that have affirmed that they are “sanctuary cities,” and the legislature of California hiring former Attorney General Eric Holder to prepare for litigation to thwart possible deportation of undocumented immigrants. These actions have reportedly prompted President Trump to consider modifying his order on immigration and refugees. If we wish to change Mr. Trump’s policies we will need to hone our objectives and organize our actions in a non-emotional fashion, similar to the examples above. Our current vitriol will do nothing to help our nation move forward.

Enough “trash talk” already!

Those who do not agree with the direction our new President is taking must not let him set the national dialogue by always jumping to respond to his vacillating pronouncements and incessant, reactionary, offensive “tweets.” Instead, let’s step back, refuse to participate in the vicious conversation, roll up our sleeves, and get to work in a coordinated, constructive way to reclaim the American values and policies that we believe in.

DEAR MR. TRUMP

Donald J. Trump
President-elect of the United States
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022

November 18, 2016

Dear Mr. Trump,

Congratulations on your election victory. But please remember that half of those who voted did not vote for you. Therefor, will you allow me to offer these suggestions?

  • Do not build the wall. Isolationism is not productive in today’s global world. Rather, work with Mexican leaders to establish a just way for citizens of both nations to cross our border in safety.
  • Do not ask Congress to repeal “Obamacare” that has brought insurance to millions who could not obtain health care insurance on their own. Rather, lead Congress in fixing the flaws in the program that need to be fixed.
  • Do not deport millions of immigrants without considered thought, especially children of undocumented aliens, and refugees from countries at war or with a history of terrorism. Rather, focus on ways for those persons to obtain US citizenship.
  • Do not revoke our pledge to support the Paris Agreement on global warming. Rather, heed the scientific evidence of our destruction of our environment. Work to increase our use of renewable energy sources. Support those whose jobs are eliminated by the expansion of renewable energy. The WPA and CCC might be models to consider while we find ways to retrain those workers for jobs of the future.
  • Consider carefully and seek expert advice on any action regarding our international trade agreements and military alliances. While these arrangements are always in need of review, changing our involvement with any of them can have far-reaching unintended and unforeseen consequences.
  • Appoint Supreme Court justices who will determine cases objectively based upon the Constitution, and not based upon any particular ideology or position that they might hold. Appoint justices who have the wisdom to apply the Constitution to today’s America, which is certainly much different than our founding fathers could have ever imagined.

I wish you the very best and will do what I can to make your Presidency successful. All of us, and indeed the whole world, depend on your wise leadership. Thank you letting me share my thoughts with you.

Sincerely,

James F. Loomis

“AND THE NEW WINNER IS….”

As Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign experiences a rapid free-fall this week, taking the Republican Party down with it, the vitriol surfacing in the campaign is some of the worst that I can remember. Yet, in my opinion, there is one Republican in the campaign who still stands tall and strong. That person is Gov. Mike Pence, the party’s Vice-Presidential nominee.

As Republican candidates and office-holders withdraw their endorsement and/or support of Mr. Trump, Gov. Pence has stood by him. Throughout, Gov. Pence has carried himself with dignity. To the degree that he can support Mr. Trump’s positions in good conscience, he has done so all week long. He has skillfully side-stepped those topics where he cannot, without coming off as being disingenuous.

When he accepted Mr. Trump’s invitation to be his running mate, and when he accepted his party’s nomination to be their Vice-Presidential nominee, he made a commitment to faithfully fulfill that role. He continues to do that with integrity, despite what I imagine must be a very difficult time for him — a time very likely to end his career in politics.

Dignity, loyalty, integrity. When I posted “And the winner is….” last Saturday, I said that integrity and temperament were characteristics essential to the person holding the office of President. In fact these are characteristics that I think are important for all of us to possess, especially in difficult times. Dignity, loyalty, integrity: the same as integrity and temperament.

Thank you Gov. Pence for your example as we endure this circus-like nightmare.

Prayer for the election

I share this prayer with you written by Sr. Joan Chittister, as posted today by the Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph.

“Give us, O God, leaders whose hearts are large enough to match the breadth of our souls, and give us souls strong enough to follow leaders of vision and wisdom. In seeking a leader, let us seek more than development for ourselves – though development we hope for – more than security for our own land – though security we need – more than satisfaction for our own wants – though many things we desire.

Give us the hearts to choose the leader who will work with other leaders to bring safety to the whole world. Give us a government that provides for the advancement of this country without taking resources from others to achieve it.

Give us insight enough ourselves to choose leaders who can tell strength from powers, growth from greed, leadership from dominance, and real greatness from the trappings of grandiosity.

We trust you, great God, to open our hearts to learn from those to whom you speak in different tongues and to respect the life and words of those whom you entrusted the good of other parts of this planet.

We beg you, great God, give us the vision as a people to know where global leadership truly lies, to pursue it diligently, to require it to protect human rights for everyone, everywhere.

We ask these things with minds open to your word and hearts that trust in your eternal care.

Amen!”
– Joan Chittister, OSB

HUMPTY DUMPTY

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
– English nursery rhythm

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
– President Ronald Reagan, June 12, 1987

It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women…to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue…new opportunities open up for all. This…requires courage and daring.  A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism.
– Pope Francis, Address to a Joint Session of Congress, Sept. 24, 2015

“I’m going to build a wall.”
– Donald Trump, 2016

Our relationships with other countries of the world, including our neighbors, is often fraught with tension. Currently there is a debate about how best to control the border between Mexico and the United States. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposes to build a wall across the entire US-Mexican border in order to keep out illegal immigrants.

Walls serve a useful purpose. They keep unwanted things out, and they keep in those things that should not get out. But eventually they outgrow their usefulness and are almost always breached.

We shared a backyard with a former neighbor, and our kids played together in this joint yard. When our neighbor put in a swimming pool he built a six-foot high privacy fence along the property line in our backyard. It prevented the risk of accidental drowning in his pool. But it also dramatically reduced our neighborliness, and it ended the relationship that our children had with each other. Unfortunately, we were not able to breach that wall, and our kids were seldom invited to swim in our neighbor’s pool. Thirty years later the wall still stands.

The Ming Dynasty completed the Great Wall of China in order to keep out foreign invaders and to control international commerce and tariffs. It worked, more or less, but, along with Communism, it kept the Chinese isolated from the rest of the world. The wall now stands as an engineering marvel and a tourist attraction. It was breached when it no longer served a useful purpose.

The Soviet Union built the Berlin Wall to keep East Berliners from crossing into West Berlin. The wall also split families, separating kinfolk who lived on opposite sides of the wall. It was famously breached in 1989. The result was the reunification of Germany, which is now the recipient, by far, of the largest number of Syrian refugees in the European Union. This is a very dramatic, 180-degree shift from the atrocities committed by Hitler’s Germany. Portions of the Berlin Wall are now simply display pieces in museums.

The Soviet Union built the “Iron Curtain,” subjugating the countries of eastern Europe. That wall was breached by the will of the people and by courageous leaders like Lech Wałęsa and Pope John Paul II.

President George H. W. Bush built a wall around Iraq with the enforcement of a “no-fly zone.” That wall was effective in preventing Saddam Hussein from spreading his reign of terror beyond the borders of Iraq. That is, until the second President Bush breached the wall by invading Iraq with no follow-up plan, launching the quagmire of the “War on Terror” that seems to have no end. Sometimes breaching a wall comes too soon.

On August 31 Mr. Trump visited Mexican President Nieto. They discussed mutual goals, including how to control illegal immigration and how to stop the trafficking of drugs through Mexico into the United States. He referred to Mexican Americans as “spectacular hard-working people” who are “beyond reproach.” For a moment it appeared that together we could work toward a solution to these problems that we share as neighbors. Then, that evening Mr. Trump gave a rousing speech on immigration, repeating his plan to build a “physical, tall,…beautiful southern border wall,” and stating that Mexico would pay for it.

Mr. Trump is not Humpty Dumpty. Our standing as a good neighbor, our history as a nation of immigrants, our foreign policy, and our skill in diplomacy is Humpty Dumpty. How ironic it would be if Humpty fell off of the very wall that Mr. Trump believes will protect us.

Fortunately, we are a resilient people, and we have experience putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. If it is ever built, Mr. Trump’s wall will be quickly breached. But how much more productive we could be if we simply stopped pushing Humpty Dumpty off of the wall in the first place!

INDEPENDENCE DAY 2016

My land. That piece of North America known as the “lower 48.” A land of plains and prairies, majestic mountains, the Everglades, the Great Lakes, deserts, the Grand Canyon, glaciers, islands, volcanoes, spirited rivers and cascading waterfalls, lush forests, and thousands of miles of coastline. A place that feels “right” to me.

Returning home from overseas, even from Hawaii and Alaska….crossing the boarder into New York at Niagara Falls after cutting across Ontario from Michigan….returning to Florida after a cruise…. there is always a sense of peace, a sense of contentment when I return to “my land.”

Native Americans also felt that inseparable bond with “their land.” First generation immigrants and refugees feel the tug, that pull back to their homeland, even when they know that America is their new and permanent “home.” The call back to “our land” seems to be inbred in all of us.

When former Roman Catholic pontiff John Paul II traveled to other countries, he always knelt to kiss the ground as soon he disembarked from his plane. It was an act of reverence, an acknowledgement that the entire world is God’s “land.” It was also a show of respect for the people who claimed that small piece of planet Earth as “their land.”

The land grabs us and holds us to her bosom. When American soldiers are buried overseas, even when we die in the US away from our home, whenever possible we bring our loved ones back to “their land” for permanent burial. I know in my heart that I will not yearn for home when someday I am laid to rest in “my land,” when her shroud is wrapped around me. For then I will be as one with my land.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA

–  forever “my land”  –

My Land
performed by Celtic Thunder

Lyrics by Brendan Graham (born 1945), an Irish songwriter and novelist. Graham also wrote the lyrics to the very popular “You Raise Me Up,” which has been performed in the past few decades by numerous artists.

I AM AN IMMIGRANT

Given the anti-immigration rhetoric proudly proclaimed by our candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, it seems to be the right time for me to post an abridged version of a story that I wrote last summer to commemorate America’s 239th birthday.

I  AM  AN  IMMIGRANT

Xenophobia:   (intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries) Such a harsh word.  We don’t use it. It puts the blame on us.

Illegal immigrant; undocumented alien:  Much more politically correct.  It puts the blame on them.

Homeland security:   Who can argue with that?

Consider…since the 9/11 terrorist attacks Americans have been obsessed with “homeland security.”  Millions of dollars have been spent as our intelligence agencies have been reorganized.  A new cabinet Department of Homeland Security has been created.  Currently we are consumed with the idea of turning away Syrian refugees, and there are never ending calls for tighter border security, primarily the Mexican-American border.  Apparently Mexicans seeking jobs and a better way of life pose a threat to us, while our Canadian neighbors do not.

But….
Christopher Columbus, 1492:  Illegal immigrant, undocumented alien.
Jamestown VA, 1607:  Illegal immigrants, undocumented aliens.
Plymouth Rock MA, 1620:  Illegal immigrants, undocumented aliens.

It seems that homeland security wasn’t so important to our European ancestors when they came to North America.

We are all immigrants, even those that we refer to as “Native Americans” who were here thousands of years before we were.  Beginning in 1638, my family members, including our daughters-in-law, came to America from England, Canada, Germany, Austria, Poland, Scotland, Ireland, Japan, and China.  One of my daughter-in-law’s grandmothers escaped to Iran at the time of the Russian occupation of her country of Georgia following the 1917 Soviet revolution.  Her daughter, my daughter-in-law’s mother, then emigrated to America.  From Georgia to Iran to America; three countries in just two generations!  My family: immigrants from eleven different countries.  My family: for 378 years a family of immigrants seeking freedom and economic opportunity!

Yet somehow, despite our immigrant status, we have acquired the idea that we are the only rightful owners of North America.

Manifest destiny, embraced as national policy in the 1800s, was the idea that Americans owe to the world an obligation to expand and preserve the spread of republican democracy: ”that great experiment of liberty.”  As history shows, “that great experiment of liberty” was a rather incongruous idea at best!

In 1830 President Andrew Jackson gained Congressional passage of the Indian Removal Act, authorizing the removal of Native American tribes to land west of the Mississippi River in exchange for forced cession of their lands in the Southeastern United States.  The goal was to allow European-American planters to move in and develop the land for their plantations. The outcome of this action, known as the “Trail of Tears,” was the forced march westward of members of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations.  Enroute to designated “Indian Territory” and later Oklahoma, thousands became ill and died.

Today, due to our government’s numerous violations of treaties made with those who were here before us, bands of Native Americans must petition our governments to be recognized as an extant tribe.  This status then allows them the right to request approval to operate casinos, which provide income to fund needed education, employment, health care, and social services to their tribal members.  These casinos drain many millions of dollars from their patrons, those of us who arrived here long after Native Americans did.  Righteous retribution, I suppose.  But someday these casinos will be seen for what I believe they really are: yet one more example of our subjugation and degradation of those who occupied this land before we did.

Manifest Destiny rationalized the United States’ annexation of Texas in 1845, resulting in the Mexican-American War.

Manifest Destiny even extended beyond our Pacific border.  In 1893 the Hawaiian monarch Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown and replaced by a provisional government composed of members of the American Committee of Safety.  (I can’t help but wonder whose safety was in question.)  The Queen was placed under house arrest in her palace in Honolulu.  The monarchy was never reinstated, and in 1898 Congress passed the Newlands Resolution annexing the Republic of Hawaii to the United States, which subsequently became our 50th state.  The absurdity of this strikes close to home in the Loomis family, as our son and his wife now live in Honolulu in the home in which her father of Chinese and Japanese ancestry grew up.

In the meantime, while we were subjugating those whose land we coveted, the United States engaged in the most schizophrenic of behaviors.

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886.  Standing on Liberty Island, rising above the Upper New York Bay, she bears a torch and a tablet upon which is inscribed the date of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.  The Statue of Liberty is an icon of freedom: a welcoming signal to immigrants arriving from abroad.  A symbolic broken chain lies at her feet.

Inscribed at the base of the Statue are these words penned in 1883 by Emma Lazarus, a woman of Jewish ancestry, who had written extensively of the persecution of Jews:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.

“From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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!”

Next to Liberty Island sits Ellis Island which served as the famous immigration station from 1892 to 1954.  During that time 12 million immigrants were processed through Ellis Island.  Eight million more were processed in the 35 years before Ellis Island was opened.  We welcomed freedom seeking immigrants into our country as early as 1857, while simultaneously keeping as our slaves Africans that we had kidnapped from their countries.  Today one-third of all  Americans can trace their ancestry to those who arrived at Ellis Island, a lineage of immigrants of astonishing proportion.

(From John McCutcheon: “I am an Immigrant”)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7qx4sl52Zo

“I am an immigrant.
I am a stranger in this place.
I have left everything I own.
To everything I’ve known I say goodbye.”

During the Irish Potato Famine from 1845 to 1852 one million Irish men and women died, and one million emigrated from their homeland to the United States.

“I am an Irishman.
When the famine put us to the test
Away into the West,
Like wild birds flying,

“We put our backs to the wheel
With a heart that always yearned for home.
We have made this place our own.
And about died trying.”

Several groups of Amish and Mennonite people make their home in northern Indiana and in St. Joseph County MI, just south of where I live.  They are direct descendents of Anabaptist Christians who were tortured and persecuted in Europe by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches.  Thousands fled to the United States to obtain religious freedom.

“She said, ‘Give me your tired,’
Don’t you know I’m weary?
She said, ‘Give me your poor,’
She’s talking to me,
One of your huddled masses 
Yearning to breathe free.

“And I never have lost sight of
What this journey has been for.
See how she lifts her lamp
Beside the golden door.”

The United States was the destination, and benefactor, of many other groups of immigrants.  Of note in our area of southwest Michigan are the Hispanic migrant workers who harvest our abundant fruit and vegetable crops each year.

“I am a Chicano.
In your orchards and your fields
I have gathered in the yields
For this hungry land.

“I am Chinese.
I worked your mills, your yards, your mines.
I laid your railroad lines
With my two good hands.

“I am Nigerian,
I am Iranian, a Jew.
From Laos, from Katmandu.

“I am a long, long line,
One you have forgotten, that is true.
I am everything you knew.
I am your glory!”

   Xenophobia ….there’s that word again.

Perhaps Native Americans should have experienced a bit more xenophobia
and exercised more “homeland security” when our ancestors came here,
for now….

We seem to have forgotten what our journeys have been for!

*  Now we hide her lamp behind our golden door.  *

– AMERICA –

– a nation of immigrants –

May we restore her beacon-hand from which glows world-wide welcome.

And may we always bear witness to the richness of our diverse cultural heritage, a heritage both historical, and yet to come.

Therein lies our glory!

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