Reflections of an ‘unAmerican’ American
by Steve Amsel
As a child in elementary school I was taught many songs about ‘my’ history. One that comes to mind was called ‘My Country Tis of Thee’...
“Land where my fathers died”... what a confusing line to someone whose father was very much alive...
Was the system trying to force an identity onto me?
And what about the tales we were told about the Pilgrims, the first Thanksgiving, etc. , etc. What possible significance could these have to a child whose parents immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe just a few years earlier?
And what about the students of Afro-American heritage…. why were they denied a true picture of what really happened to their ancestors? Not until Alex Hailey wrote the book ‘Roots’ were many of the facts exposed.
We were told that America was a ‘melting pot’….. that’s fine, but what about the ingredients in that pot? The school I attended was in a working class Jewish community in the southern part of Brooklyn. We were ‘taught’ that America was a ‘Christian’ nation. What was ironic about this is the fact that those that taught us this were for the most part Jewish. So, just what did that mean? Were we to lose our identity as Jews and start calling ourselves Christians?
Christmas and Easter were both Holidays for us, yet we did not celebrate them at home. Did that make us ‘unAmerican’? Somehow the term ‘melting pot’ did not fit, it was more like a slow cooker where the ‘minority ingredients’ were either burnt away or totally blended in with the other ones in the mix.
There was a sprinkling of non Jews in my school, there were Puerto Ricans whose families moved up north to secure a better life. There were a handful of Afro- Americans as well as some students of Chinese origin. All had a culture of their own, and all were denied that culture…. it just wasn’t American. It was a confusing situation for all of us.
When John Kennedy threw his hat in the ring to become the next President we heard ramblings that he did not stand a chance because he was a Catholic. Were Catholics not Americans? Were we forever to be ruled by the predominant WASPS? Again, a very confusing situation.
Brings to mind a joke that my grandmother used to say to me; You are American born, that means that one day you can become the President…. of the local synagogue…. There was allot of truth in what she said, yet, I was to feel proud to be an American...
The Cold War presented new challenges to our ‘nation’….. “America, love it or leave it!” WTF????? Was dissent not allowed? Was criticism not allowed?? What about the ideals set down by our ‘Founding Fathers’ when the ‘nation’ was established? Was all of that merely documents to be viewed in museums? Were we to believe that the Constitution and Bill of Rights were totally outdated and invalid? On one hand we were taught about the glorious principles of ‘our’ Revolution, on the other hand we were taught that to believe in those principles was unAmerican. Whatever happened to the concept of ‘We the people’? should that be changed officially to ‘We the Sheeple’? Again, a most confusing situation.
So, I ask, where do all of the above ramblings and reflections leave us today? I can only surmise that America is in reality a false nation with false prophets…. am I wrong?
Enjoy the following traditional Thanksgiving treat…
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