Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What Does Red, White and Blue Mean to You?

My grandparents were immigrants and came to the US around 1910 by way of Ellis Island and Philadelphia.  Some had recently served in the British Army (Irish Regiment) in the Boer War in South Africa.  They eventually went to work in a State Psychiatry Center and began to raise families.  To assimilate, they were dispatched with out Irish first names, so my Aunts and Uncles were: Walter, Gladys, Marie, Edward, Thomas, Eleanor and Albert (me Da).  My mother, Alice and her sister Kathleen lived a few blocks from my father’s house.  The Irish names would return in the next generation.

My paternal grandfather walked out on his seven kids and my maternal grandfather, a policeman, took his own life when my mother was only four years old.  The surviving grandmothers raised their kids to learn and work and serve society.  They all survived the Great Depression.  Three of the four boys on my father’s side served in WWII, one of my Aunt’s lost her husband in that war and my mother’s cousin was killed in action.

What I learned growing up was passed down to me by this “Greatest Generation” of first generation Americans.  They were fair and intelligent.  They did not pretend that all was well with America.  They taught me that a real patriot fights for what is right, not just for what is popular.  The first and biggest lesson I learned was that prejudice and discrimination were wrong, as wrong as sin and could not be tolerated.  The second lesson was that of stewardship of the privilege of freedom, even if it is not perfect. And the third was that freedom was not free; it took work, and education and service (in my case military service) to really earn what the red, white and blue of our country’s flag offers.  That should never be taken for granted.

In this divisive political season, where idiots gain fame and fortune for nothing and those who serve to make society better are all but ignored, it might do all of us well to look back just one or two generations to see what Red, White and Blue really means. 
Please take a moment on this July 4th to think about that. 
Thank you -  L.S.

"Flags 3" Photo by: Paula Brewer

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