This is my America. The country I have loved for 67 years. The land I felt immense pride in while driving cross-country visiting every historic landmark in my youth. This is the country I stood up for and pledged my allegiance to every single day during my childhood, and for 36 years every morning when I taught elementary school.
I pledged my allegiance to the flag even when we were fighting in Viet Nam and my friends were coming home in body bags. Even when people were protesting against wars, against racism, against animal abuse, against guns, against pesticides, and a million other causes, because in America we have always had the right to free speech. We are accustomed to living in a democracy and being able to express our thoughts, opinions, and assemble peaceably.
Decade after decade I happily stood in front of my students and led them standing tall and proud as I put my hand over my heart and faced the American flag. I wanted them to understand the importance of why we began each day with The Pledge. I explained how lucky we were to be living in the greatest country on earth, America.
And every April I read aloud the Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”, to help them understand how it all began. But, towards the end of the poem, no matter how hard I tried, I would have to hold back my tears, barely making it through to the last stanza because I inevitably got all choked up. Some years I would have to hand the beautifully illustrated poetry book to one of my students to finish the last few sentences for me, because my tears would be falling and I couldn’t get the words out. The children always seemed to understand that their teacher was greatly moved by this historical event. An incident that took place long before any of us were born. And they too were moved and inspired by those men and women who helped form this great nation.
“A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.”
I never tire of hearing that poem. The bravery and dedication and all the sacrifices the men and women who fought to make this a free nation, lingers between every line, every stanza. And those courageous values have been entrenched in our history and embedded in my heart.
So much so that when I left for work each morning I felt lighthearted and safe. And when I returned home at the end of the day to see my own children, I rejoiced in the fact that I could raise them in this glorious country and that they too would be safe and secure and have countless opportunities ahead of them. Yes, that is the America I grew up in. The America I love so dearly. That is the democracy that chose a young Jewish woman named Emma Lazarus to write the poem that was engraved on our Statue of Liberty, which represented to the world how America welcomes everyone:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
THAT is the America I have known for almost 68 years. Those were the values I was taught growing up and those were the American values I taught my children and my students. But I realized today that THAT America is fading quickly under this new administration and may soon cease to exist.
For the second time this week the JCC ( Jewish Community Center) down the street from my home was threatened and evacuated AGAIN! Over 200 Jewish schools, centers and Temples have been vandalized and attacked and threatened and every day it gets worse. People of my faith are threatened all over this country. We Jews no longer feel safe in our homes, in our schools, or in our Synagogues. That is no way for any American to live. We should not be fearful in this country. This is the home of the free and of the brave. None of us should have to be afraid for our lives and the safety of our children.
Every single day I watch as my fellow Jews are put in danger and little Jewish children are rushed out of their classrooms simply because of their faith and I think this cannot be happening in the country that I love. NOT in my America. Freedom of religion is part of our Constitution!!! I am heartbroken, disappointed in my government, and frightened for my family and for my fellow Jews.
We The People can NOT turn our backs on this kind of discrimination and bigotry. We demand action, protection, and punishment for the perpetrators of such evil. And we say to you, NO MORE!