Democracy

by Tzvi and friend

In 1949 my parents and I arrived in New York City bypassing Ellis Island and docking at a Naval base. This was a new adventure for my parents especially; the home of a yet new democratic experiment; a quiet place without guns or stomping boots outside of the occasional parade. Going to school, while I had no animosity toward black people, there was a curiosity in the back of my mind about them sitting at their own lunch tables and not mixing in too much except of course on the football field or on the basketball court. I didn’t know any black person myself but there was one guy in my Electronics class, a class I failed, that mocked the teacher relentlessly. But it was more like a standup comedy routine and he had every one rolling on the floor day after day. I admired this comic but I don’t remember his name. I think today I would.

My sixth grade teacher made a strong impression on me. She was one of the best in every way and many years later I made a special trip to play my violin at her funeral.   One of the few things I remember about her was her warning that a sixth grader was about to arrive who was a mix of white and black. He was said to be not very pretty and we should not say anything. Of course this was not true. It’s just that we weren’t used to seeing a person of this ethnicity. Today it’s no big deal and many of our most cherished citizens are a handsome and beautiful mix of color. I believe that it is this mix of color just like the mix of diversity that keeps us safe; there are not too many of one kind or another.

There were many Mexican families in my neighborhoods but no African Americans. I grew up, unfortunately, with some degree of disrespect for Hispanics. Only later would I learn what they didn’t know: many were from families of displaced Jews whose ancestors had been threatened or murdered during the Spanish Inquisition—an event produced by the mix of politics and religion, apparently — not a new thing in human history.

Our nation’s past is not blameless, but we have always striven to fulfill the promise of our founding principles.  In the past, we tore men and women away from their African families, chained them in boats, and shipped them so far away from home that they would never see their shores again. We told them they were worth nothing and forced them to work long hours to create wealth for a few people.  Finally there came a man and a movement whose intelligence and compassion caused him to stand up and say enough! He freed the slaves, forcing a total restructure of society. This caused problems but not ones that an industrious people could not overcome. Things simply had to shift into a new order … and then we had the industrial boom and became the greatest country on earth. This sifting process is not new to society. Take away their square peg and people figure out how to do even more with the round one. The stage coach lines are no more. The railroads are not what they once were. The horse driven mail system is gone. No more telegraph. But, with each demise there is a rebirth for the better.

Because of our diversity and our desire for success, I have no fear of change in our nation.

What greater response to our history and what greater crowning glory to show the world how it’s supposed to work, than for someone whose ancestors could have been slaves and put him in the white house as the leader of the free world. You may not like him – that’s okay – but you have to admit, he is a good man with a good family and good morals. And perhaps most importantly for a President, he is a true believer in American democracy.   There is a firm belief there in truth and justice, and not a cynical bone in his body about the American Experiment.

And now for the bad news: there are real cynics about our grand experiment.   There are those who seem not to understand democracy; the will of the majority; that whoever wins gets their turn at the helm without fear of violence or regression. Some believe this only so long as they come out the winners. And if they don’t, they begin to wave their guns. They speak of insurrection. They threaten. They talk of things they don’t even understand like socialism and the anti-Christ. We should be celebrating the victory of democracy at work, not spewing fear and hate. The irony of all ironies is that those who scream that the republic is going down in flames and that we will find ourselves in a civil war, these people will of course be the cause of it themselves. Careful what you wish for.

I say take down your silly gun signs. Put down your weapons. If you don’t then we should stop being international hypocrites and stop involving ourselves in other countries under the false premise of promoting democracy for others. If we really believe that our democracy is the example then we ought to grow up and show it. A flag on a pickup truck doesn’t do it for me. Being helpful to a friend or neighbor is where it’s at; teaching your children right from wrong without being judgmental. Removing ugly signs from your front door and your bumper would be a move in the right direction. Turning off those screamers of hate on the airwaves will lower your blood pressure and give your brain enough time to regenerate lost cells. No need to wear your false sense of patriotism on your sleeve.

Can’t we just be friends and work this democratic process by having sane discussions to work out compromise and make changes at the ballot box…hopefully without certain people trying to stop you by using their brand of “democracy”?

 

 

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