America the . . . what?

Every holiday season, I look forward to re-watching some of my favorite Christmas shows.  While the enjoyment comes from feeling nostalgic about my childhood, today I find myself trying to relive the feelings I had about the United States and my fellow Americans.  I feel sadness that the place I call home is not recognizable anymore.  This country seems foreign to me now.

I watch 1962’s “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” and wonder about my favorite song in the show, “The Lord’s Bright Blessing,” and think to myself how in today’s times such a song would never be written today.  Too religious.

How about the climax in 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when Linus tells the story of Jesus so Charlie Brown knows the true meaning of the holiday?  Even back then “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz had to fight the producers to keep that scene intact.

“Home Alone” (1990) has a tender scene in a church where the boy character Kevin meets his neighbor Old Man Marley in a church to have a heart-to-heart about family.  Would this make the final cut 30 years later?

One shutters to think that one day the most famous line uttered by Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “God bless us, everyone” may not be saved.  Will the g-word become the new n-word?

No, this isn’t another one of those War on Christmas columns.  It’s more about how Christmas time is one battle in the War on America.

Though I am not Christian, my parents brought us three kids up to believe in the dream of America.  As first-generation Americans from their families which immigrated to this country, it wasn’t enough for my grandparents to get to the shores of New York City.   They wanted to be a part of America, not apart from it. 

As one of the few Jewish kids in school I didn’t feel insulted or disrespected whenever we had to learn carols like “The First Noel” for the holiday program.  It wasn’t about religion for us; it was about America which is why we grew up loving Christmas.

That’s called assimilation.  And without it, each of us recedes onto an island with our own kind.  It is one of several reasons why our country is so split these days.

Too many citizens identify themselves first by their ethnicity, not by their country.  Saying “I’m American” used to be a special declaration.  It meant that we live in the only nation on earth where all kinds of people are welcome and have a chance to be treated equally; a noble experiment going on 250 years that still hasn’t reached its goal, but has made strides towards it.

No one seems interested anymore in reaching out to fellow citizens unlike themselves and finding common interests. Instead we stand our ground that only our rights matter.  The wearing of masks controversy symbolizes such selfishness.  “No one tells me what to do” is a mentality that is un-American.  Goodness, decency and values have been buried as relics from the past.

I find it sad that generations of people alive today never experienced the America I knew.  I don’t pretend to look at my past with rose-colored glasses.   There were lots of problems in the 1960’s as well.   Much has improved during my lifetime.  But the stuff that is disappearing is eroding this country’s definition.

As a father I have done my best to raise respectful young men.  As a teacher I taught students to be respectful to those unlike themselves.

But as I look around, I see less evidence that other parents and teachers are doing their work in raising young people to believe in morals which is instilling a belief in democracy and this country.

It is like I am living in a real “Planet of the Apes” twist ending where I’m walking along Santa Monica beach and come across the crowned head of Miss Liberty submerged in the sand.  This is America?

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