• WrestlerBoy

    Posts: 1971

    Jul 04, 2014 12:11 AM GMT
    Happy Birthday, to These, Our Beloved, Beautiful, Transcendent, Glorious, Revolutionary, Constitutional United States of America.

    For those of Us so highly privileged to be born Her sons and daughters, may we be forever grateful, and make Her torch a light of Liberty unto the world.
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    Jul 04, 2014 2:35 AM GMT
    What a difference a Revolution can make...

    I was 21 and already "Out" for four years, HIV+ for two years. I had grown up in a middle class "nuclear family" in South Florida during the 1960's. It was now 1986. The foment that would become the 1989 Tiananmen Square was starting to boil. Mao had only passed in 1976. The People's Republic of China (PRC) was still a very cloistered, guarded society.

    Uncle sponsored a trip for my brother and me to visit Grandmother for her 80th birthday. My Grandfather had long since been dead of causes which my father and my uncles still will not speak of to this day. They only tell me he died just after the Revolution of 1949.

    There were so many odd, eye opening moments during that trip.

    Entering first to Hong Kong, we swooped down to land at Kai Tak Airport while taking in the skyline splendor of luxury of a colony under British protection. Immigration and Customs was but a formality. I encountered a place and people where I blended in, but not, because I'm 1/2 Puerto Rican, clearly of North American culture, Twinkie Gay, and at 6'1" I kind of stood out. People stared at me. Uncle lavished us with accommodations at the Peninsula Hotel, dinners at the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, and evening chats at his "just below the Penthouse" apartment at Victora Peak ("It doesn't get as hot as the Penthouse, which is better"). Uncle made his money in the manufacturing of "core memory" when the family's mainland holdings were nationalized in 1949.

    On the last days before entering the PRC, we went shopping, Uncle took our passports, then gave them back to us with papers.

    I asked, "What are these for?"
    Uncle quipped, "You're bringing gifts."
    "What are the gifts?", I pressed.
    Looking a bit annoyed Uncle responded, "A washing machine and a refrigerator. Your brother is bringing in another washing machine and a freezer."
    "Oh.", was all I could muster.

    Uncle gave my brother and me two cartons of Marlboro Red cigarettes.
    "Uncle, I don't smoke.", I stated.
    "They're not for you. They are for tips.", he schooled me.
    "Oh." I was so naive and callow.

    We entered the People's Republic of China through Beijing. The flight in was grey. We stepped off the plane to be "welcomed" by stoic, armed soldiers who looked at us. I couldn't tell if the look was disgust, anger, or just intimidation. We arrived in the Immigration control area where uniformed officers were seated at high desks which towered above us allowing them to look down upon us with their cold, shifting eyed glances. Uncle took our passports and after about 20 minutes of banter in the (for me) unintelligible Mandarin Chinese language of my paternal ancestors, we got our "chops" and now were able to go through Customs. Our bags were ransacked before our eyes. Uncle looked my brother and me with that "say and do nothing" kind of look.
    After we repacked our bags and exited Customs, there was a push of people scrambling for luggage carts. I went to get one and somebody tried to take it away from me. I said in (what must have been for him) unintelligible English, "No, this one is mine, you will have to get another.", as I maneuvered my body and pulled the cart away. I turned to some other relatives who came back without carts, and asked why they didn't grab one. There were plenty.

    My relatives said, "We cannot take one. The carts are reserved for foreigners only."

    And, for the first time in my life, I felt the stomach sickness of disgusted guilt because I was being given preferential treatment to the discrimination of others. I would feel this sickness again and again during my visit to the PRC as we would encounter bathrooms, restaurants, hotels, luxuries, and other public accommodations "for foreigners only".

    All the while, around me was what looked like ancient poverty.

    We attended Grandmother's 80th Birthday. I consider myself blessed to have had the opportunity to meet her once even though we could not understand each other verbally, we connected through the eyes.

    My brother an I did not stay over long in Hong Kong once we left the PRC. Before we knew it we were finishing the Narita to JFK flight and stepping off the plane. It was a long flight.

    As we headed to the Immigrations hall, the entrance emblazoned with "Welcome to The United States of America",
    I took out that little navy blue U.S. Passport,
    I stopped and looked at it.
    And as the memories of where I just had been flashed through my mind, I clutched that passport.

    And I cried tears of humble gratitude in memory of all who have died to establish and perpetuate the liberty and freedom which I had taken for granted up to that point.

    I had done nothing to earn the liberty, the freedom, the opportunity of safe, secure, well-fed, medically supported, educated upbringing.
    I had done nothing to earn the rights guaranteed to me under the U.S. Constitution.
    I had done nothing to earn that little navy blue U.S. Passport.
    All I had done to inherit what that little navy blue U.S. Passport represents was to be born in a particular place to parents who happened to also have understood the priceless legacy of United States citizenship.

    Since that time, I have had the opportunity to travel around the United States and to many other countries in the world. There are so many wonderful places around the world. I make it a point to "put my best foot forward" when I am traveling outside the United States. I feel the weight of duty to represent my country well.

    And, every time I return to the United States I continue to be grateful that I live in a country which although far from perfect, progresses as none other before us.

    It is my greatest hope that our best values guide us, and true us to be our best selves so that we may be our best as a nation in a global community of nations. What a Revolution THAT could be!
  • WrestlerBoy

    Posts: 1971

    Jul 04, 2014 2:42 AM GMT
    Just beautiful, Alan. Isn't it just the so MANY different ways in which we love Her that makes our "From Many, One" so real?
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    Jul 05, 2014 4:06 PM GMT
    GAM that was a great read. Pardon my delayed response but true to my antijockishness, having signed the noncompetition clause, I didn't feel my response appropriate to the occasion so thought I'd await its passing.

    I admire in others the sentiment patriotism but never quite got it myself outside maybe of world citizenry that I could champion, but borders constrain my enthusiasm. Not that I know or even claim--as many do in ignorance--how a thing might work, a globe without countries, but that I find my thoughts rest easier there even without those answers.

    I don't recall ever root root rooting for the home team. Even while growing up as a young child, people cheering sports struck me as annoying as loud diners at a restaurant. That mob mentality--the lack of independent thinking--it scared me. Stadiums still scare me. I've been to just one concert my entire life, though I was surrounded then by a group of friends. I didn't sit next to a stranger. I never got it on my own, that team spirit, never related to reciting the pledge of allegiance, any pledge: it always struck me foreign, phony, that people think they should be saying what they simply should be doing.

    My family Americanized quickly once arriving in the 1800s, Jewish families fleeing Russian pogroms. My 2nd generation American grandparents were born here pre-assimilated. Unlike newer immigrants who hold onto their languages today, mine spoke only English at home. My mother knew no Yiddish. My father very little, probably through his mother, a Vaudeville dancer and daughter of an orthodox Jewish furrier.

    When first heard that James Garfield was assassinated in 1881, the family story goes, my great grandfather who I never met is said to have exclaimed: "Shoot him in the pants! The jacket's mine!" First generation American great grandpapa who escaped the pogroms of St. Petersburg, a fairly rare place for Jews then to be, was a fashion designer was one of the president's tailors. He made jackets which were then considered more prestigious than making mere pants, a detail of which one of my wealthier cousins made sure I knew in the telling of that family story. I've heard nearly identical such stories from parts of the family that haven't spoken to each other in generations so I suspect them true.

    A number of great grandpa's kids went into entertainment and were subsequently responsible for a significant amount of Americana, works that will never fade or tatter, unlike great grandpa’s suits. That in turn wound up damaging my father severely, when his father and family left in poverty his mother and he when he was a teen forced to quit school to support his mom, abandoned yet unable to escape his family fame. I met my grandpa all of twice in my life. My father always referred to him as "that whoremaster" for leaving his mom.

    My other side of the family also came over in the 1800s but that great grandpa was a horse thief. Or so my aunt grandma used to call him. As a kid I got confused as to relations so my grandma's sister became my aunt grandma. Apparently, nobody liked the Zionist. Supposedly he was a mean guy who broke up the family leaving half here to earn a buck while taking the younger half to help establish Israel--then Palestine--where I supposedly still own my share of our homestead. It's on google maps. A nice looking street. Seems zoned mid-rise condo. Must've developed some since the horse thief.

    Though born here and then taken there, my grandmother made her way back with her other young siblings with the help of their older brothers who had remained in the states. It must have been difficult for them--even the ship went bankrupt in Greece, stranding them there, little kids, but they all did fairly well here for themselves, becoming mostly professionals, some small business owners and a manufacturer, pretty much living the American dream. That side of the family stayed very close, my mom organizing that—they all loved her and my mom loved her family so much--so I grew up with close relations to more than 60 first and 2nd cousins who never knew anything but America, having left their past behind.

    Hell, my mother never even made a matzo ball soup. I'd say we were as American as apple pie, but she never made pie either. She made reservations. I maintain a few of my own.
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    Jul 05, 2014 5:27 PM GMT
    My mother came to this country from Germany in 1948. She and my father married a year after my sister was born.
    Mom spoke no english and anti-Germany sentiment was real strong in the US at the time.

    No matter, they ended up living in Panama where my brother was born and then Taiwan.

    In 1956 they were living in Fairfield, California. My mother wanted to take her citizenship test but my father said, more or less, "you're on your own." Prick. So mom took her 8-year old and 5-year old in the car and drove the 60 or so miles and then over the Golden Gate bridge (she had an intense fear of heights and bridges) to the SF courthouse.

    When she got to the courthouse, she was told she could not take her children into the courtroom...she told the guy (bailiff?) well, you watch them because I'm going in there to take my citizenship test!

    And she did! And she passed!

    To celebrate, she took herself and her kids to Woolworth's for hot dogs and splurged on a 25 cent corsage for herself. She was so proud.

    And I am so proud of her. She was a very gentle soul but was very feisty when she needed to be. I am my mother's son in every respect.