I have been in a state of grief lately. It took me a while to identify my feelings, but the word “grief” comes closest to naming my condition.
Having been a counselor for 25 years, I knew that it is not uncommon, especially among older adults. We reach a point when we experience so many losses: loss of children (empty nest), loss of parents and older relatives and friends and loss of physical abilities. But I think that my recent sense of grief is due to the loss of my country, at least the country I knew in my youth.
When I was 14 years old, I entered an essay contest sponsored by the San Antonio Oddfellows Lodge. Students from freshman to junior years in high school could enter. We had to write an essay on “What the United Nations Means to Me.” The winner would win a bus trip, along with all the other state winners, to Washington, D.C., and New York City to visit the United Nations.
I entered on a whim and, lo and behold, I won. It was the experience of a lifetime for a teenager who had never been out of state. Along the way, we would stop at various Oddfellow Lodges, where they would treat us to a potluck dinner. We always began with the pledge and singing the national anthem. Oh, how proud I was to experience the kindness and patriotism of the various lodges in Arkansas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, etc. I was amazed at the beauty of our country and the beauty of the people I met: the other winners, our chaperones, our guides. I learned so much, and I came back convinced that I lived in the greatest country on Earth.
It hasn’t felt that way for the past two years or so. As the daughter of a naturalized citizen from Mexico, I have watched in sadness to see other immigrants treated inhumanely. I see people using the flag and religion to bludgeon others into believing as we ourselves believe. Instead of kindness, I feel an atmosphere of distrust and hatred on the political stage.
Lately, though, I have begun to feel a sense of hope that I may still get my old America back. After all, I have lived through two impeachment investigations, one of which resulted in resignation. After each one, there was a sense of at least having uncovered facts and trying to establish the truth as much as possible. It reinforced that there was a judicial system in place that could help restore our equilibrium. Not everyone was happy in the end, but at least it brought a sense of relief and the feeling that there was some justice that had been restored once again.
I pray that we will have the willingness to allow the system to work as it should. No one knows the whole truth, but we should still keep open minds and allow the people we elected to try to get to the truth. I want to get the feeling that the system that was established in the Constitution can work.
Most of all, I want the 14-year-old children of today to feel that same pride I felt in my country in the late 1950s. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life grieving for that country that I loved and that I somehow lost along the way.