If you look at the world map, you will see that Europe is rather small. I grew up 10 minutes away from the Italian border, could drive to Germany in about 2 hours and Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Czech Republic, and Hungary were just a few hundred kilometers away. Different cultures, different languages, and different looks lived just around the corner and were rather appealing to me; it never scared me.
It’s not all “hunky dory” in Europe either. Europe is a mix of different countries, with different languages and all countries together have a rather complicated history.
Both, the First and the Second World War, had left scars in every country. Almost every family had lost loved ones. Borders got moved around. People belonged all of a sudden to a different country, just because they grew up close to a border and state line. I can tell, it happened to my family farm; it got divided in the middle.
Did I like everybody in the countries around me? No, I didn’t. I grew up with prejudices myself. I learned not to trust the people from the Eastern states too much. They were all communists -so I had learned in school- even though many of them didn’t want to be. Many things I felt, because I had been raised to feel that way. I adjusted my opinions when I grew older. Some foreign workers, with darker skin, looked rather scary. They talked funny, and we didn’t trust them right away. They came to help us with farm work, we needed them and liked the way they worked, but we didn’t want anything to do with them. Most of them were from Turkey, Greece and the former Yugoslavia. Over time we got used to them, tried their dishes, learned their songs and heard more about their history and culture. Over time we respected one another, over time, we became friends.
I married and moved over 3,000 miles to live here in the U.S. with my husband. I would call myself a liberal, in every meaning of the word. I don’t judge people for gender, sexual orientation, the color of the skin or religion. It doesn’t mean I like everybody and everything, it just means I am open minded toward everything and give everybody a fair chance. It means I don’t rank myself as “higher” or “lower” than the people around me.
I learned that being a liberal in Europe made me a SUPER-liberal here.
I wasn’t scared of America, not at all. I knew a lot about the civil war, could name Presidents, states, and capital cities had learned a lot in our history classes. I knew the exact date and place of J.F. Kennedy’s assassination and had read almost everything about the civil rights movement. I was curious about all the different cultures, couldn’t wait to see Chinatown and wanted to meet native Americans. I knew there were colored people in the U.S., and I was looking forward to meeting them as well. I had read books like “Roots” and knew Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. There was a time when things had been difficult in the United States, but all the hate and all the discrimination happened 20 years earlier in the 60’s. America was at peace in the mid 80’s when I came here. It was the United States of America, and the word UNITED made pretty clear to me, that ALL people were one union. Everything else was a relic of the past…so I thought.
We didn’t have too much money when we got married, and we moved to a “mixed” neighborhood. Our next door neighbors were Asians, the couple across the hall was black (the word African American was used later, I never got the memo).
We all were students, and we all were poor. We all accepted each other, we all got along. I remember an argument. I don’t recall what it was about, but I know that the guy from across the hall called me “snowflake.”
I smiled at him when he said it, thought he called me that because I was born and raised in lots of snow. My husband explained later on that he said it because I was white. I walked over, knocked on his door and told him that I didn’t want anything to do with his racial bullshit, but I liked being called “snowflake” it reminded me of home. I can still hear him laughing. I called him “a chocolate cookie”…we are best friends every since.
Over the years I learned that this country is not at peace. What I thought was a relic of the past, is a fact of our everyday life. Some things are better than they were 50 years ago, but there is still a long way to go. I feel like living near a volcano. It looks good and peaceful from far away, but you will hear the rumbling and feel the heat, the closer you will get. It’s alive and will erupt one day when we won’t expect it at ll.
Racism is existing and is practiced every day. It’s black against white; it’s white against black. Then it’s black and white against Latinos and Asians and vice versa. An endless list, an ongoing thing. Even a wanna-be Presidential candidate has no moral these days and is running a campaign based on name calling, hate, and racism. Sadly he has followers.
I try to stay out of it; don’t want anything to do with it. That’s the one time when I can say I stay above it all. That’s the only time; I distance myself from everybody around me. I come from a country where Millions got murdered because of hate; I know better.
I am so tired of this racial bullshit. I feel like I am walking on eggshells. Can I say “this,” can I say “that“ and if I do, whose feeling do I hurt this time? Can I call you an idiot, regardless of the color of your skin? Do I have to act differently, because of the color of your skin?
I feel like I am forced to take sides, and I don’t want to. I feel like I am being pushed into a drawer, and it’s suffocating me.
When will we be united? When will we all just be Americans?
The history has left its scars, this cannot be changed, it can only be accepted. Many things happened way before we were even born. The past can be an evil companion, it can sit on our shoulder and whisper in our ear and bring us down, but it can although be a helpful guide and a friend into a brighter future.
We decided how to use our past. It’s the attitude we show in our everyday lives. We can’t undo what has been done, but we can raise above.
A black friend told me once, “You don’t get it, my great grandparents were slaves.” I just looked at her, “You don’t understand, my grandfather was in a concentration camp”. It’s not a competition of the ghosts of the past.
Will there be a time, when we all will just be Americans? Will there be a day, when we all will live and follow the pledge?
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Patriotism should be more than just waving a flag. The dictionary definition of patriotism is “love for or devotion to one’s country.” and I wish we would include ALL people in our love, not just the country.
My wish would be that we would start living the way we pledge.
Are you patriotic? What does being patriotic mean to you?