America. It's a beautiful land, with every climate imaginable. As a child who grew up in an immigrant family, but taught only English, I was a
prodigious reader from an early age. I read stories of the pioneers who braved the unknown as they made their way west in search of a new life, and I
used to imagine myself as a cowgirl, riding the wide open plains, feeling the wind in my hair, and settling down at night to a campfire under the
blazing stars. I read stories about old New York, Old New England, stories about the mountain folk, life on plantations, life as one of the
Vanderbilts or Rockefellers, life as a poor child who, through hard work and perseverance, would grow up to be fabulously successful (a la Horatio
As somebody who grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, I was tantalized by stories of living in a land with four seasons. Oh, to walk outside your front
door and see great, white flakes of snow falling softly on the landscape! To go sledding with other children, to build snowmen, to see frost
crystallize on the windows as you were inside, warm and cozy, with a fire roaring in the fireplace. A sleigh ride where the horses had jingle bells
on their harnesses!
I watched movies, too. War movies where America was always right, our military was always the bravest and the most honorable, and there was always a
happy ending. Movies about the America of old, movies from the 30s, 40s and 50s, where the police were our friends and protectors, the justice system
actually worked, and criminals and cheaters never prospered. Sometimes I would watch until they shut down the station around midnight, and there
would be a patriotic montage of flags, flying Air Force jets, and monuments in Washington, D.C.
I would get goose bumps saying the pledge of allegiance. When we were told at school that the red commies wanted to bomb us back to the Stone Age,
and we had to practice getting under our desks and putting our hands behind our heads, I would do it faithfully, although the floors were dirty and I
always got sand in my knees. We girls weren't allowed to wear pants, it wasn't "proper".
I was thoroughly indoctrinated into American culture, and I was completely in love with all the myths that we all grew up with: America is the best
nation in the world, we have the highest, most compassionate form of government, and that truth and justice are the American way. If Superman started
out every show with that last statement, it must be true! Russia and China were evil, dark places where everybody was bullied, scared, and sent to
Siberia for talking back.
Still, behind the glittering tinsel facade, as I got older, cracks began to appear. I remember that American magazines had a hard time letting
Camelot go, and there were many magazines with the Kennedy family on the covers. I remember asking my father when I was about 12 years old who killed
President Kennedy. He frowned and said that it was a group of evil people, people so bad and rotten that it was best that I didn't know. I told him
that it was my understanding that Lee Harvey Oswald had done it. He smirked and said in his heavy German accent, "Dats vat dey vant you to tink."
A few years later, I had asked my father what it was like to come to America as a fresh 18 year old, ready and eager for the challenge of making it
here. He said it was a rude shock. He had been fooled by the American movies he had seen overseas before coming here. He thought America was truly
free. Then he gets here, and there are rules preventing people from doing a bunch of stuff. He liked to go in the mountains and hunt and shoot, but
here in America, you have to get a license for that. You had to get a license to drive a car, and that car had to be registered every year. Every
place that seemed wide open actually belonged to somebody and there was always a "No Trespassing" sign on it.
As a way to become a naturalized citizen in a hurry, he immediately joined the Army during the Korean conflict. They gave him an IQ test in English,
although they knew full well he was not proficient in the English language. They treated him like a dummy and put him on the bomb squad. I guess the
Army felt he was expendable. He hung in there, though, and got his honorable discharge and his naturalization papers.
Later, he said that Americans were generally rude to him when they found his first language was German. He had to endure nasty comments in which he
was called a "Nazi" and was told to get the hell out of the US if he didn't like it. He struggled to improve his language skills, and upon meeting my
mother, a Spanish immigrant, he had found a kindred spirit who was having trouble being accepted by those outside her language.
Still, they worked hard, owned a business together, bought a nice house with a pool and had 4 kids, all taught only English. I remember my
grandmother cutting out shamrocks from green felt to pin on our sweaters for Saint Patrick's Day so we wouldn't get pinched by the other kids. She
didn't understand it, but this was America, and if it would save us from being pinched mercilessly by those of Irish descent, she would do it.
I would listen to my father's stories of frustration at how things were run in this country, frustration he dared not share with anybody outside of
the home, for fear of the negative reactions from the "Love It or Leave It" crowd. I only half-listened, for I was a child in a wonderful land of
plenty. Good schools, a great neighborhood, kids to play with, awesome TV and radio, lots of clothes, food, entertainment, holidays. I still wax
misty at the July 4ths of my childhood. I can still see everybody out on the street, blowing off roman candles, kids running barefoot with sparklers,
adults laughing and sipping sodas and beer while they sat in lawn chairs. Nobody was a stranger on those nights, and it was magical.
Christmases with tons of presents under the tree, and every house on the block had colored lights on them. Easters with eggs to color and hunt, lots
of candy. Trick or Treating with fun costumes in the dark with your friends, and all the junky candy you could chow down on. Thanksgivings with
turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, pies, friends and family. The first time I was allowed to stay up til midnight on New Year's Eve. I felt so grown
up! What could go wrong in such a land of milk and honey? We had everything. We were the envy of the world.
Then, I actually did grow up. I remember in the 1980s, my father had gotten involved with the Lyndon LaRouche Society. He agreed with their
philosophy and he was a popular member. I never listened and never cared. Who cares about politics and finances? I wanted to put in my Pretenders
tape and go shopping. He gave me a book called "George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography" by Webster Griffin Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin. He said, "I
know you like books. You will find this very interesting. It is important to understand and read this because he and his family are evil people" I
said thanks, took it and never read it. I still have it.
A while later, while I was visiting at home, my mother, who worked for a bank, invited the bank president and his wife for dinner. My father started
in on his political discussions, while my mother kept kicking him under the table for him to be quiet. The bank president was squirming but tried to
be polite. Finally, dad dropped the bomb.
edit on 2-12-2011 by FissionSurplus because: (no reason given)