Happy birthday, USA; are you still here?

July 5, 2018

Yesterday was our nation’s birthday. We wore red, white and blue, ate hot dogs and watched fireworks. We celebrated being Americans. But is the America most Americans and the rest of the world believe in still here?

Our nation was formed to escape tyranny and religious oppression. We are the country that learned (and is still learning) that slavery and racial and religious persecution are not humane nor in our best interests. Americans gave their lives to save England, France and the rest of Europe, first from the Nazis in WWII, and later from the communists. Our nation is not perfect and will never be so. But, we are as “good as it gets,” resulting in endless legal and illegal immigration.

Are we still the people who revere the Statue of Liberty with the words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore...“Are we the country that remembers that unless we descended from Native Americans, (who we’ve treated poorly) that our ancestors were immigrants or slaves?

Are we the people who remember that many immigrants were poor, uneducated and lacking English upon arrival? Some older immigrants never mastered our language. But their kids did. Why don’t we have a reasonable immigration plan?

While new immigrants must wait their turn to be admitted legally, how could we think that it was right to separate little children from their parents seeking asylum? Conservative and religious leaders expressed worry about the way our nation’s leaders acted in sending children far away from their parents. The Rev. Franklin Graham called it “disgraceful” to see families “ripped apart.”

Are we willing to accept Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ comments, “I would cite to you the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of government because God has ordained the government for his purpose?” Reportedly, this Biblical chapter has been used to defend slavery. Mr. Sessions added to his comments that “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves.” These comments would have applied to Nazi Germany, as their leaders arranged systematic murders of Jews, Christian protesters, the handicapped and homosexuals.

Have we not realized that when one political party trumpets extreme views, the other will respond accordingly? When the Supreme Court agreed that, because of his religious views, a baker did not have to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, didn’t we realize that others would feel marginalized? That may have led to the unfortunate “Red Hen” Sarah Huckabee Sanders dinner eviction where much of the restaurant staff was reported to be LGBTQ. Ideally, we Americans should be welcome in any public venue and not discriminated because of any identifier.

We Americans, the beacon for freedom the world over, seem to have forgotten who we are. We insult our allies and cozy up to our enemies. Our leader lacks historical perspective and seems to admire Russia’s Putin more than our longtime democratically elected allies.

We are a wonderful country. We’ve given homes and hope to millions here and abroad. We’ve never been perfect and always had periods of strife and imperfections. But today, we have difficulty communicating with those who don’t share our political views, and our government has extreme problems resolving domestic and international issues.

Happy birthday, America. But is that wonderful America, the one that could solve most problems through civil discourse, still here? We must hope so.

Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.

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