My heart is American, born and bred. Red, white and blue blood flows through my body every day. I breathe the air of freedom of expression and often sing patriotic and religious songs learned growing up in the Chicagoland suburbs during the ’50s and ’60s.
Telling the truth, loving my fellow citizens — not just those who agree with my outlook on life — has been a quiet passion of mine for some 68 years.
Law-enforcement officers and courageous military troops — men and women who risk their lives to protect our freedom — are a gift our country provides us every day. I silently say thank you as often as possible for these patriots who willingly, knowingly hit the streets of cities and communities in America and battlefields around the world.
As a white man who grew up on the high side of middle class America, I never feared a confrontation with police. No, my parents pounded into me a respect for law-enforcement encounters. They often warned me — as I left the house with car keys in hand — about having to make a late-night call home to get bailed out of jail. The call would be answered, they promised, but I might still find myself locked up for a night.
I never feared for my life during a traffic stop or feared being confronted by a police officer as I walked or jogged down a street. I never had to plead with police to get a knee off my neck so I could breath the air of freedom; never lost a struggle for life while lying face down on cold, hard pavement, handcuffed and taking my last breath as I called out for my mother. I never lost use of my legs from being shot in the back seven times while trying to get into my car.
What I believe is that Black Lives Matter. I believe the law-enforcement community deserves support, but it needs to be held accountable for how they protect us. Protesters are not the rioters, looters and anarchists setting businesses and buildings ablaze. Those who come out at night under the cover of peaceful demonstrations and create chaos — including gunning down of innocent and unarmed American citizens — should be charged with the crimes they commit and, if convicted in a court of law, serve the time determined by a jury of their peers.
If all my years spent reading American history is correct, the Founding Fathers expected the haves to support the have-nots. They believed our republic and democracy was a great idea, but it would need nurturing, tweaking over the years so that the core of what we fought for — that “all men are created equal” — would be true across the country at every point along the road from 1776.
Democracy is not riding through streets of a beach community while toting assault rifles and shouting profanities at unsuspecting people. Democracy is not screaming in the face of a store employee about your “rights are being violated” when you were stopped for not wearing a mask to help slow the spread of a killer coronavirus.
Democracy is not telling this old man whose love of country knows no bounds that it’s either your way or the highway, because as much as it would pain me, I would renew my passport and leave a country that no longer respects my freedom to respectfully disagree — without using guns or angry words — with other points of view about the American way.
Yes, today my love of country is on life-support.
Our common cause — sharing the gift handed us at birth by a divine force we struggle mightily to understand — is being ripped apart. A government needed to move America toward a quality life for all men and women has devolved into candidates feverishly throwing sensibility and respectability onto the trash heap of political campaigns.
Ideas on how to govern, plans for improving the quality of life for all people have been replaced with personal attacks on political foes. Campaign ads are littered with lies, all a desperate attempt to scare people into voting for someone who seems less frightening.
Foreign enemies have inserted themselves into our national election process. The attack on one of the most critical components of our republic that came to light in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes and continues today is allowed to fester and disrupt the national psyche.
It’s real, folks. It’s not a hoax. It’s not “fake news.” America is under attack like never before.
The added pain of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 185,000 since February, increases my pain. The deadly disease has forced me to adopt a new lifestyle that limits life in retirement. Masks are a new part of my wardrobe. Dining out is limited to family and close friends who need to sit six feet apart. Movies are viewed at home not in a theater with wide screens and surround sound.
COVID-19 is real, folks. It’s not a hoax. It’s not “fake news.”
In my American heart, I long for elected officials of all political persuasions to stand as one and find a way to bring people from all walks of life to the table and find a path forward to save our country from ruin. They need to deliver not just words but actions, a national call for all of us to bring our love of country to a shared vision of America for the next generation of patriots.
My American heart is hurting. It’s still pumping red, white and blue blood around my body. But the beat is weakening. I’m not sure how much longer it will last.