“My Country ‘Tis Of Thee”
When I was growing up in a mid-sized town in the middle of America’s Heartland, we could all recite the Pledge of Allegiance and could sing the song “America” by heart. When a flag went by, we stood at attention with our hands held over our hearts. At the age of eleven, I could recite all the names of the presidents in the order in which they served this great country. We learned a lot of things about the presidents and the battles fought to keep our land and people safe. I had the great opportunity of seeing Eisenhower in person and I watched him become president. I remember many of us wearing badges on the front of our shirts which had the logo,” I like Ike.” I had the honor of hearing the stirring words of John F. Kennedy, ” Ask Not what your country can do for you but rather ask, what can I do for my country?” I also remember I mourned his death as millions of other college students did that fateful day in Dallas, Texas. It was a defining moment in the lives of many of us because we all felt some important piece of us had died that day. We had lost our childhood innocence. The world was no longer safe and full of good people looking out for the welfare of one another.
In the 1960’s, I had a front row seat to the Civil Rights moment. I watched as African-American students bravely walked into classrooms and declared they too had the right to an equal education under the Law. I saw other African-Americans refuse to sit in the back of a bus because they wanted to be treated with respect. Some sat at lunch counters waiting to be served while the smoke of hate swirled around them. All they wanted was to be treated equally and have their sense of dignity restored.
I was proud to be an American during those years. Congress met and spoke for the American people. They met behind closed doors and hammered out their differences. They were able to negotiate and willing to compromise for the good of this great nation.. They acknowledged their differences, but they worked hard to keep the promises they made to the people they served. Ethics were real and alive in those days. The welfare of ALL the American people became their most important priority. They were mature, decent people who were wanting to do the right thing for United States of America.
The years passed and with them came the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Richard Nixon fell from his place of power because of ethical violations. There were scandals with other government officials in high places who seemed to have lost their moral compasses. Big business became involved with politics as well as men of great wealth. The welfare of the American people was no longer their priority. Money, Status, Power, and Self interests became their focus in life. Political parties became stubborn and lost their ability to compromise, to communicate, and instead became pawns in obstructionism. Stalemates became common as well as government shutdowns as a way of saying, ” I want my way no matter who else gets hurt in the process.” Sadly, many Americans were hurt in the process and they lost respect for those who were suppose to govern and lead our country out of the problems that were threatening to destroy all we have worked so hard for over the decades.
Discrimination is visible in America today and it is blatant. Racism is clear in all forms of communication. Disrespect for the office of the President of the United States is transparent everywhere you look, and people as well as corporations and political adversaries have crossed the line in what is proper or helpful. Negotiation and compromise are dead in the American Congress. Using threats, slurs, and deliberate lies are an everyday occurrence.. Congress has lost the respect of the American people and they have taken away our sense of hope in the future.
What happened to my Country? My heart yearns for the nation that once instilled pride in the heart of every red-blooded American. I want her back. This is My Country and I love her, but I don’t respect what she has become: a nation full of disrespect; racism; contempt for the poor, the disabled, the elderly; and the inability to negotiate and compromise in working towards healing our nation’s wounds. America, my heart bleeds for you.