The recent announcement by President Donald Trump for an annual military parade immediately recalled my memories of Greece. Those displays seemed pointless to me then and would certainly be oddities now, but they point to our growing militarism.
“Are you happy we came to America?” my father asked me, a week after his open-heart surgery, taking me utterly by surprise.
As I sat next to my dad, mulling over his question, I thought back to how we left Greece, a time of political turmoil, with an inept monarch and rising militarism.
In the village where I grew up, I witnessed a small convoy of soldiers riding into town one day to arrest a man, and later tosshis family’s furniture into the street.
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The idea of America, then, was a grand dream, and to come to its hallowed ground insured our future would not be our past. When we arrived in Seattle, my father knelt on the ground and kissed the doormat to our new apartment.
I struggled to adapt to the new culture, new language, new people, but bit by bit, I appreciated and valued the wondrous and expanding opportunities available here.
Immigrants often wonder what would have happened had they remained in their homeland. For me the possibility of teaching at a major university in Greece would have been out of the question. As a villager, not well-connected, the most to hope for would have been teaching at a middle school.
But in our half-century living in the U.S., 40 years a citizen, I have never felt more insecure as I do now. On a walk around my neighborhood not long ago, a pickup drove by and its driver slowed to throw an apple at me while shouting the N-word.
I always understood America to be about blending differences into a unified whole; today our nation’s elite tribalize the country with little regard for unity.
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I always understood that we respected the office of the presidency, even if we didn’t like its occupant. Today, we disrespect the office as much as the office seems to disrespect many Americans, particularly those from “shithole” countries.
The recent announcement by President Donald Trump for an annual military parade immediately recalled my memories of Greece. Those displays seemed pointless to me then, and would certainly be oddities now, but they point to our growing militarism. Some days it feels like my family never left Greece.
More worrisome is the drift toward monarchy. Our political system has thrived because of its flexibility and openness to new ideas.
Yet, a few years ago, I asked my students if given a choice between democracy and a benign dictatorship, which they would prefer. They chose the latter.
Our country started as a bulwark against authoritarianism; it’d be doubly ironic if we let ourselves down this poisoned path.
Because democracy involves work and a shared commitment, and must be guarded from corrosive forces, some people might prefer an “easier” model of governance. If our Amazon Echo could do our voting, some might say, we’d be happy.
From my classes, I know there are students who detest such a future and will fight it.
As I told my dad that day, “I am very happy we came to the United States,” despite the challenges we face and the monstrous effort needed to keep our sacred democracy intact.