A Beacon of Hope, Once

This was supposed to be a joyous blog entry for  The Epiphany. I wrote:  “May this Epiphany bring peace, joy and happiness in your lives. As the three kings Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior followed the road to the path of righteousness to witness the manifestation in the birth of King of Kings, may that same light of wisdom guide our path to love, joy, peace and happiness.”

But alas, a different manifestation took place shattering the path to love, joy and peace within the American fabric of democracy. Like many of you I witnessed the rise of domestic terrorism in this once great country. I am disillusioned as I witness on TV, jaw dropping pictures showing law-enforcement officers with guns drawn to keep protestors off the floor of the House of Representatives. There are protestors fighting police inside the building and a bleeding woman on a stretcher being rolled away outside, (who, by the time I publish this blog, is reported as dead, including three others). People are clamoring the areas around the Capitol waving American flags and Trump banners while Trump delivers a taped message continuing to stress his claim of election fraud and telling people to go home. Meanwhile the constitutional process has been thwarted and the country is in disarray.  This is not something new. It started in 2016. And I mourn this country’s demise.

I, like many of you who came from abroad mourn the country (America) that was my family’s salvation. When I arrived here in the US, I felt gratitude for the values of openness, decency and tolerance found in this my adopted home. I became a naturalized citizen as soon as I could, because in a world that seemed to reward dishonesty, cutting corners, lying, cheating, stealing, bullying, harassing, and all manner of coercive tactics, this was the country where I could practice with the values ingrained by my roots. This was the place where the integrity of character was rated above all else. Here was practiced openness and tolerance that made this country a safe haven for me and many like me. This country was the place where I was awestruck to witness the majesty of a peaceful transfer of power for over 40 years.

Regretfully, all this that I value has degenerated.  Since 2016 the surge of misguided nationalism that accompanied then elected President Trump revealed deeply held prejudices about immigrants. Racism and xenophobia, which I had mistakenly presumed to be banished from the minds of majority, made its ugly return under the guise of nationalism and patriotism. I, and the likes of me were at a risk of being objectified as foreign or alien if we spoke with an accent or looked other that “white.”

I take no joy in these states of affairs. A political rot has set. The country is divided, and many are as angered and disillusioned as I am. Government plays craftily and manipulatively with procedures, international treaties and internal constitutional legislations. Ethical standards have taken a tumble by turning a blind eye toward harassment, political correctness, and moral behavior.

Having come from an ancestral ethnic group of people from the highlands of Western Asia who have had to constantly battle and prove themselves a member of the reigning society, and who because of genocide, have had exile and resettlements as part of their history, my grandparents found a home in the Middle East. It was there that I grew up under the influence of Mediterranean hospitality and a union with the best of European and Western education and a marriage of their cultures. However, civil unrest and war, compelled me to move voluntarily to the United States, a place where my quintessentially multi cultured self was welcomed. I was and am pro Europe, a feeling reinforced by having lived in European countries and receiving from them a firm educational foundation. My multi-identities seemed to be complementary to my life here in the United States and the values it upheld.  As the granddaughter of traumatized and exiled people for reasons of religious beliefs and values of character rooted in loyalty, courage, compassion, fairness and respect, I went to great lengths in defense of these global values that embodied decency, respect and integrity.  I do not take my citizenship lightly. I am Armenian by heritage and conviction, proud to have Lebanese roots in hospitality and union of cultures, and I would like to remain proud of the America I chose to love. But this once beacon of light and hope is now inward, polarized and self-aggrandizing.

Which brings me to the realization that if America was once the beacon of light and hope, the land of opportunity, tolerance, inclusivity, courage, compassion and generosity, it was due to the leadership of presidents and their courageous administrations who exemplified what their respective party’s mission was. Republican or Democrat, they didn’t abandon the principles they believed in. They didn’t falter from domestic integrity, international cooperation, honesty and above all, America being the “shining city on the hill,” inviting the world to admire and follow our example. It was a wonderful enviable example that drew support from a host of nations and immigrants that wanted to be like America.  It was all due to the “chutzpa” and integrity of the men and women who understood the difference between their role in government to ensure their party stance on issues that affect their national vision, and the personal interests and visions of a running president.

All that came to a crashing halt in the four years of the Trump presidency. We have slipped from the shining hill and we are now the pariah of the civilized world. The election of Joe Biden offers a reprieve from the crassness and naked insensitivity of the past four years. But can we recapture our old glory? Can we eradicate Trumpism from our national soul? Can we remove the stain on this nation left us by a president whose self-aggrandizing became his number one motive to create a cult-like following?

For our children’s and grandchildren’s sake, I hope the answer is yes! It is now up to our next president and his administration, house of reps. and senate to save our democracy and our Constitution. And it is up to us, citizens of the United States, to embody the spirit of America in her celebration of tolerance, brotherhood and diversity; to share “with those less fortunate our wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity; all while maintaining the traditions of ‘our’ ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.”

May the light of wisdom guide our path.
Good luck, Joe.