I grew up an American, and proud of it. I was taught in school about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and Bill of Rights. My brother was a Merchant Marine Officer during the war and had three ships sunk beneath him. We beat the Nazis, the Fascists and the Japanese and made the world safe for democracy. After the war came Nuremberg and the assurance that things like the holocaust could never happen again. The Marshal Plan helped to rebuild the shattered portions of the world. America, Democracy, compassion and help. It was good to be an American. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were sad, but necessary to end the war and save lives, we were told.
We read George Orwell’s 1984, which could happen in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, but we could never have thought police and endless war here in the United States. Then came the Cold War, McCarthy, Korea, and later on Vietnam. My service time crossed those wars, but I thanked my stars I didn’t have to fight in them. I was at Bikini for the Hydrogen Bomb tests in 1956, which taught me the unthinkable horror of nuclear war.
Vietnam taught us the danger and folly of going to war on a false pretext. Tonkin Gulf was to be a lesson to us all, as was the intended impeachment of Nixon for violating the law and the Constitution. We wouldn’t let that happen again; no president was ever going to spy on his own people again, or persecute people who didn’t agree with him or his policies.
Yes, the United States was a nation of great wealth. A nation that took care to see to the freedom and well being of its citizens, and welcomed the downtrodden foreigner to the new land. It was a nation that pioneered the exploration of space and gloried in the advance of science. I was proud to be an American!
My God! What has happened to my nation? My nation that no longer pays more than lip service to its Constitution and Bill of Rights, which have been a beacon to the world for over two centuries. My nation that unilaterally discards treaties that were the hope of a world of peace, guided by law and diplomacy. My nation that will wage a war of aggression against a far off nation that was no threat to it, but that has lots of oil. My nation that gives all of its wealth to the rich and is satisfied to leave its citizens to starve, homeless, unemployed and sickly.
What happened to that Constitution that so wisely divided the government into three separate units, to provide a system of checks and balances against any one branch usurping power? How did we wind up with a President that refers to the Constitution that he swore to protect and defend as “just a goddamned piece of paper,” and a Congress that seems willing to rubber stamp any giveaway the President demands? How did we find ourselves with a Supreme Court that will set aside the Constitution in favor of unlimited presidential power for the duration?
Now I live in an America I don’t dare leave for fear of being spat upon, shot, bombed or kidnaped. I am looked upon as a citizen of a rogue nation that has no concept or respect for any law except bullying and strength. I need a passport even to visit Canada, which was to be our sister nation with open borders forever. I must expect to be required to show my “papers” at any time, to any official. I must accept that the government can break into my house and rifle my belongings and papers any time it wishes on the thinnest of excuses and it is not even required to let me know it has violated my home and my privacy. I must accept the fact that the government can listen in to my private conversations, my phone, my e-mail, can probably read my snail mail if they wish and can put a gag order on anyone who has information on me so I may not even be made aware that I am being spied upon. George Orwell’s absolute dictatorship has crept in to my home and my life and thrown out my beloved Constitution and Bill of Rights. The difference between the United States, Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy is steadily and inexorably diminishing and the people are letting it happen while they remain paralyzed with fear. Fear incited by the gang that runs the White House and their cronies in the propaganda ministry that used to be our last bulwark against tyranny; our once free press.
So now my pride in America is for our past; my sadness for our present; my fear for our future. I am no longer proud to be an American, but I have no place to go.
Stephen M. Osborn (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer living on Camano Island in the Pacific Northwest. He is an "Atomic Vet." (Operation Redwing, Bikini Atoll 1956, ) who has been very active working and writing for nuclear disarmament and world peace. He is a retired Fire Battalion Chief, lifelong sailor, writer, poet, philosopher, historian and former newspaper columnist.