America: September 2017

2006-2017  Gay Military Signal

A Patriot's Lament
My Flag, My Country

On the first day of his campaign, when he began by scapegoating Mexican migrants, I said, "My God, this guy is using Hitler's playbook word for word; he's a damn Nazi!"  Everyone told me that I was nuts, 'nothing bad was going to happen.'  "That's what Germans said in 1933," I responded.  Now, this August, everyone has lost their breath in the horror of realizing that the 45th President of the United States is a neo-Nazi hatemonger of the worst kind.  The stench from the elected members of his own party is putrid as they have all soiled their pants in horror at his words supporting the murderous race riot by White Supremacist and neo-Nazi hate groups, pardoning a racist sheriff, and his raw bigotry against transgender patriots serving in our armed forces.

On a dark cold day in late December 1938, one of President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt's army of immigration agents looked at the small young frightened woman next in line at his counter in the main reception hall of Ellis Island.  It was late afternoon after a very long day, and he was tired.  He could hardly remember to look at the face of the person standing before him.  Wordlessly she handed him a tattered passport, no visa, no documents, just a German passport with a big 'J' rubber stamped on the front page right over her photo.  He'd seen that kind of thing before.  He knew what it meant; she was a Jewish refugee, WOP -without papers-, fleeing for her life from the Nazi Holocaust.  He could see the weariness in her eyes, from what must have been a months long journey crossing dangerous borders, and a sea sickening steamship trip across the winter wartime North Atlantic, just to now stand before him, fearful of his uniform and authority.  The babble of a hundred languages echoed in the hall incessantly, the stench of thousands of people who had not bathed in weeks filled the air.  It wasn't an easy job.  But, professional and tired as he was, this immigration agent remembered to smile at her reassuringly.  "No, don't worry," his face said, "I'm not going to send you back to hell."  He took a refugee referral form from his shelf of forms and copied the information from her passport, rubber stamped it, 'WOP.' and handed her the form and her passport, and then carefully pointed to the area where she should go next to check-in and wait. He sighed, took a breath and shouted, "Next!"

That was my illegal immigrant mother's first encounter with America.  Twelve hours earlier she'd stood on the deck as the ship sailed past the Statue of Liberty, holding its torch aloft, as she and hundreds of others wept, "SAFE! Safe at last!  In America, in Freedom!"


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