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My America

February 9, 2014

Declaration of Independence, Author Thomas Jefferson, Source (PD)

“My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing…”

— My Country ‘Tis of Thee, lyrics by Samuel Francis Smith

I am the proud daughter of immigrants who came to this country in search of a better life. As a child, I drank in the American Dream with every glass of milk, the promise on which immigrants still stake their lives and fortunes, that with hard work they can achieve a life with more possibilities, if not for themselves, then for their children.

Work hard my parents and grandparents did. Scrimp, save, and do without. Long before the word “recycling” ever existed, my grandmother kept a large can beneath the sink for the shortening she would use, over and over. Under her roof, paper bags and pieces of aluminum foil were carefully folded and put away, until they might be needed again.  Socks were darned; clothing was washed, mended, then handed down to the next child.

Without a single 8th grade education among them, my parents and grandparents managed to purchase a home, and raise two daughters who actually finished college; a banker and a lawyer – girls yet! – who went on to make their way successfully in the world.

Growing up in an immigrant home, I had the ideals in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address fused into my bones. This was a country in which pedigree did not matter. This was a nation in which to dream BIG. So I grew up believing.

But I woke one day to find that the homeless could be seen on every street corner. To find that manufacturing jobs had been sent overseas to profit large corporations. I woke to find that someone searching diligently for employment could be out of work not just for months, but years. That, despite this, the unemployed were labeled unmotivated, slothful, and the disabled labeled malingerers.

I woke to find that American children in American cities were attending American public schools without text books.

To find that greed had nearly toppled the nation’s financial infrastructure.  That those who had benefited most were rewarded, while many who watched their retirement savings vanish were left without recourse. That government programs specifically put in place to assist the most vulnerable members of our society were chronically underfunded.

I woke to find that privacy had been eradicated; that individuals mattered not at all, and corporations had First Amendment rights.

Where did my America go? When was all this decided? When were we even asked? This was once a country that cherished the individual. That cherished freedom, purchased with the  blood of patriots.

As a Christian, I cannot help but believe that the secularization of the nation played a major role.

Corporate America certainly seems to believe that ethics are a hindrance. Oh, the rules are given lip service. But, in reality, the goal is to break, not keep them. The end, i.e. profit, justifies any means. We have returned to a laissez faire form of capitalism as vicious as the jungle. Those at the top of the food chain have convinced themselves their interests supersede all others.

Congress is little better. The quote by Alexander Hamilton (“Here, sir, the people govern.”) displayed in the US Capitol might as well be replaced with a sign reading, “For Sale to Highest Bidder.” All too many of our duly elected representatives have been subverted by special interests.

Where did my America go? What could I have done? What should I have done? And what can I do now to remedy matters…or is it already too late?

He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them. He takes away the understanding of the chiefs of the people of the earth, and makes them wander in a pathless wilderness” (Job 12: 23-24).


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