I used to listen to our national anthem in awe and respect.
Each word a covenant of hope, faith and optimism. I used to feel pride and respect when I saw the American flag flying high and fluttering majestically in the wind — a reaffirmation of our freedom and our history — refreshing, invigorating, comforting and reassuring to the body, mind and soul. I used to assume that I would never see the decline of America, or the betrayal of our national integrity and ethics, for I assumed that all the struggles, efforts, toils and sacrifices by Americans long gone had ensured the fortification and enrichment of the character and virtue of America for those of us entrusted with safeguarding the American dream.
But now, the blood and tears of unsung heroes ignite my passion and my rage. For I have seen and felt the pain and anguish that comes with carrying and holding high the torch that lights the path to freedom and liberty. Duty. Honor. Fidelity. Truth. These were words that defined our heritage, our legacy and our destiny — now simply words without heart and soul. Yet, in the recesses of my mind I harbor a glimmer of all the forgotten lives and unrealized dreams of those who faded into the tide of time on battlefields and on crimson-covered fields to sustain and maintain the words and promises that drowned out their pain, their anguish and their agony. Words and promises now muted, hollow and vain.
I lost too many friends, and saw and heard too many boys and young men suffer the pangs of death, endure the agony of despair and experience the torment of seeing the mutilation of their body and soul, to now accept the thoughtless tweets, or hear the brazen lies, or watch the selfaggrandizement by a man who does not understand the meaning of courage, duty, honor, fidelity or truth.
For more than 244 years Americans have fought and died to preserve and protect our nation and the idea and ideals it represents. The world has watched in envy and in awe as we led the world in the fight for human rights and blazed trails to unexpected heights in every field and in every way. And now, like me, the world recoils in dismay and disappointment and even shock at the sights and sounds emanating from America.
The American image is now the picture of a follower and a bully, not a leader or a liberator. America is now lumped in with Third World countries that imprison and cage their citizens and opposition, and build walls and barriers instead of bridges and bonds with neighbors and friends. “Lock her up” has replaced “God bless America” at political rallies, and allegations and accusations of sexual misconduct and rape are now accepted and even condoned by the Christian community and its leaders as qualifiers to hold the highest office in our land.
But worst of it all is to be told not to believe what we see or what we hear, but instead to believe only what we are told. So, please tell me, what am I not seeing or hearing or understanding about what is happening in America today? I cannot believe I am alone. I cannot believe that an overwhelming number of Americans are blind and deaf and cannot see and hear the changing wind that is making America small, insignificant and irrelevant.
We deserve better from our leaders. Our fallen heroes and patriots deserve better from the country they sacrificed and even died for. America deserves better.
We were never a perfect nation or a perfect people, nor will we ever be. All we can do is hope to do better, be better, and learn from our mistakes and missteps. The one thing we must not do is remake or relive the mistakes of our past by clinging to illusions and delusions of bygone days.
We deserve better. America deserves better. And it is up to us to make it so.
Al Garcia lives in Palm Valley.