this land (and sea)

In pre-war (WWII) Northern Ireland, the businesses that my grandfather inherited and ran made a sufficient income to have a generally comfortable middle class living;  in the post-war economy, those businesses collapsed and they were forced to emigrate, with little option but to start over.  My grandfather found work selling insurance and wanted his daughters to work as bookkeepers or in such work.   Mom applied, was accepted, and ultimately graduated at the top of her nursing class at Mount Sinai Hospital.

My father, son of a Polish immigrant, was born and grew up in the Bronx;  he excelled in school and ultimately pursued aerospace and mechanical engineering at college.  His, too, was an act of desperation.  My grandfather was a shipfitter at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during WWII.  He and my grandmother ran a small bakery for a time.  When my grandmother passed away relatively young – my grandfather was a restaurant -equipment repairman.   My dad had to excel in a profession to make his way.

 

Life was always complicated in America.  It went through successive struggles of growth, industrial expansion, war, and immigration open to the world.  Through the centuries, Dutch, English, German, Irish, Italian, and eastern Europeans (Slavs) arrived from the East.  Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and all over came via the West.   They came as Protestant, Catholic, Jew.  The came as indentured servants, slaves and refugees.  African-Americans after the Civil War spread out from the South to the  urban Mid-West and Northeast.  Before the influx of immigrants from the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia, life was quite complicated,  and particularly so after a World War.  The Cold War, Viet Nam and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have colored the last 75 years of the American psyche.

It was no less complicated since the 1960s.  In my lifetime, I have personally practiced in elementary school for impending nuclear attack.  I heard the unusual reports of someone in high school bringing a firearm.   Metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs in schools and public places.  School mass-shootings.   A President in office while an Islamist revolution held American diplomats hostage for more than a year.  The first World Trade Center bombing.  September 11, 2001, in which a mentor and friend was murdered by terrorists using a commercial aircraft as a weapon.

The late Woodie Guthrie, folk singer, wrote a song that we sang as schoolchildren in California in the 1960s.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.
I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

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