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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!"  Decades later, as a young adult, I took the tour.  Ellis Island was now a museum.  The great dusty hall was empty, but I imagined the babble of languages and the stench of thousands of weary refugees; I walked the imaginary line she'd stood on for eight hours, nearly vomiting imagining her anxiety.  In the next area of the great hall, she'd waited hours more until her name was called, more forms were filled out.  She was near fainting from exhaustion and nauseous from starvation.  She hadn't eaten since before dawn on the ship off the coast of North America in the roiling sea rolling and rocking so that she could hardly keep down the few bits she took.  Finally, after forms were filled out in the refugee reception section, she was pointed into the next room where charity workers waited with cheese sandwiches.  My God, a lousy cheese sandwich on white bread never tasted so good!  American cheese, of course.

That was her first dinner in America.  Anyway, she was interned for months in a refugee women's barracks on Ellis Island, forms were typed up, letters were written, and finally she was granted a green card to work and live in America as a resident alien refugee.  Upon her release, as she stood on the boat quay on a freezing cold February dawn in 1939, she was issued five cents to pay for the ferry ride across New York Harbor, past the Statue of Liberty, to begin her new life in freedom in America.  That nickel was the only welfare she ever received for the next sixty years of her life in America.  She became an entrepreneur designing, sewing, and selling ladies hats in her tiny shop, paying taxes right from the start.

Truman was President when I was born in freedom as an American citizen.  My immigrant mother taught me that "'American Freedom' was the most precious thing in the whole wide world."  I knew where she came from, what she escaped, how her parents -my grandparents- were gassed to death by the Nazis in Auschwitz, what she went through to get here, all of that; I grew up understanding what the Nazis were, what America fought in WWII.

In college in 1968, I saw my fellow students burn the American flag in protest against the Vietnam War; taking their freedom for granted.  As a first generation American, I thought, "That's MY flag!  Its time to pay my country back for my family's freedom."  While thousands ran away to Canada to avoid serving, I volunteered.  While thousand's lied and said they were gay to avoid serving, I lied and said I was straight so that I could serve.  I served for ten years and left proudly and honorably as a Sgt First Class.

Anyway, that's the story, that's why I'm so outraged that the current president is a Damn Nazi!  For the first time in his mean greedy life, he should do the right thing for humanity and resign before his own party throws him out of the White House head first.

-Denny Meyer, fmr USN, SFC USAR

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