I don’t know Hal Morris. Never met him. I received his commentary from a friend and it resonated with me because of its honesty and the author’s palpable love of our country. I hope you will find it as poignant and authentic as I did.
PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN
by Hal Morris
I was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1935, but grew up in a small rural hamlet called Oak Ridge in the Catskills near Ellenville. We moved there in 1942, the dark days of WWII, and were the first Jewish family in the area. I grew up attending a one-room school, grades 1-8 from, 1943 to 1949.
It was rural America at its finest hour. Each morning in school, we recited the Lord’s Prayer, sang the National Anthem, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and saluted the Flag. We all respected and felt proud if chosen to hold the Flag during the morning ceremonies.
It is interesting to note there were only 25 students in our school, 15 White and 10 black. Because we were such a small student body, everybody had to participate in games. We played, fought, and grew to like or dislike because of actions against each other, not because of our race or economic levels.
We were proud to be Americans and especially proud of our neighbors who had gone off to War. As children, versed in the War’s progress, we followed the battle lines on an old Mercator map hung by the blackboard.
When we had free time, we biked and visited each other’s homes. It was as if we were one. None of my friends went away to camp during the summer. The shortage of men caused many of the women and children to do farm work. I went to work with my older classmates picking bush beans during the summer. It was hot, dusty, and difficult to fill up bushels of beans and carry them to the truck for 25 cents a bushel. If we worked hard, we could earn as much as $1.50 a day and $7.50 for the week. I learned responsibility, getting up a 5 AM, riding a workers truck to the fields. Coming home at 4 PM, we helped with feeding chickens, mowing hay, and cleaning barns. When I was ten, I learned to drive a small Chevy dump truck and a Ford tractor. I remember being so proud of the responsibility. People depended upon children, and we delivered.
In June of 1944, we learned the two neighborhood Sheely boys had died landing at Normandy. The family lived down the road. We also heard that same month that Louis Rabin, the brother of one of our students, had been shot down over France and taken Prisoner. The War was coming right home to us and fast. Funny, that right after that news, we stopped playing war games.
What made it very real to me was when our neighbors across the road, the Carsons, heard their son Harry, who they thought was missing in action, was captured in the Philippines. Harry was a star athlete and baseball player signed by the New York Giants in 1940. He enlisted in the Army and was stationed on Corregidor in the Philippines. They had given me his bat and glove to use. I was nine years old and so proud of Harry and cried when I found out. Happily, Harry survived Japanese confinement, and, when he returned in November of 1945, he weighed less than one hundred pounds and suffered from TB.
Those early years, growing up without material things, in a rural setting, going to a one-room integrated school, understanding how hard it is to be a migrant worker, how difficult it is to be a farmer, literally shaped by life today. I learned to respect hard work and the people who worked what some consider menial jobs. Eighty-five years later, I know my roots, and I appreciate those who work and use their hands in manufacturing and jobs we consider menial. I am proud and thankful to be born an American Citizen.
I worked my way through high school and college. Had a successful career in private industry, and retired after over thirty years as a school superintendent. I earned two Master’s degrees and a Doctorate from Columbia University. I realized success and disappointment but was always thankful that I lived in this country that enabled a poor boy to have an opportunity to succeed.
It pains me to see our democracy and free enterprise economy threatened. It pains me to see the complacency spreading among our young. It disgusts me to see both black and white as well as other minorities hoodwinked for false political purposes. I’ve worked in countries practicing communism. I’ve traveled throughout Europe and Asia and met and spoken with individuals who lived and worked under socialism. I’ve seen and looked into their eyes and seen the hope that someday they to could come and live in America. I pity the young, entitled, rich who have their lives on a silver platter but don’t understand what freedom and equality mean.
I learned the truth is what matters. Looting, violence, and hatred can only divide and not win. The phrase attributed to the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop, ” United we stand, divided we fall was historically paraphrased by Patrick Henry,” Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.” It’s easy to forget the struggles of parents who sacrificed so that the young have it better than they did growing up. So they protest, riot, and destroy to make things better. How ironic.
The politics of today will have a profound effect on the lives of so many to come. Will they have opportunities to become self-sustained individuals and families? Will our grandchildren live in a country that values free enterprise, lives within its means, and provides shelter to those in need?
The use of racial injustices to divide is deplorable. Recent polls indicate that many Americans view society as racist. Racism, antisemitism, discrimination against Hispanics, and Asians happen. Historically all ages and races have practiced individual racism and antisemitism all over the world. Because a black person calls a Jew a “Kike” doesn’t mean all blacks are antisemitic. It means that person is ignorant and prejudiced against Jews. It doesn’t mean all blacks are believers in systemic antisemitism.
So let’s stand up to the polls and refute the myth of systemic racism. It doesn’t exist today. That it did during the Democratic/Socialist Party support of Jim Crow Laws, doesn’t make it so today. Systemic racism will exist, so long as individuals believe that problems are brought about by others.
Unfortunately, the solutions for most of the problems of poor urban black individuals and families exist within the black American population. The BLM movement’s recent statements have negated the importance of stability in family structure stability reinforced by sociological studies and the Moynihan report in 1965. This denial of family stability reinforces the belief that others cause their situation.
Politicians, trying to overcome defeat, regain strength and power need division, and cause problems to gain votes. By ignoring the reality of family structure, they prolong the solution to the problem.
Some say we are now at a crossroads. As Woody Allen so aptly stated in his speech to graduates, ” One road faces death and destruction while at the same time the other faces total annihilation. Let us hope we have the wisdom to choose wisely.” The humor of Allen illustrates the doom and gloom of the advocates of systemic racism. We don’t have to make such a choice. Ours is relatively simple. Do we love and respect our country as it stands? Can we within our system continue our fight for greater equality? We don’t need to wander around to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. We need to concentrate on building what is right.
Yes! I say we can and will! Let us not throw away all that is good. Look at the continued growth of the black and Hispanic middle classes. Look and develop increased job opportunities that can be available for weak urban areas. Despite Democratic/Socialists’ efforts to subvert such valuable opportunities, Republican efforts to create opportunity zones need to increase.
It made no sense to elect a Democratic/Socialist Party candidate for president. Biden’s platform stressed giveaways, free health care for all, free tuition, and relief from student debt. These are all unrealistic proposals without sustainable means of payment.
If legislation is adopted to support such recommendations, personal, small business and corporate tax brackets will soar. Even with that, there wouldn’t be enough revenue to pay for all the proposals. To make up the difference, the Democrats would cut defense spending, infrastructure plans, and border security budgets.
The Utopian ideas sound appealing but are not at all realistic.
We face neither death nor destruction. We don’t face annihilation.
What we face is a revolution trying to overthrow our economy and our form of government. We face a choice between free enterprise progress to new heights or a hard move towards socialism.
I pick free enterprise heights and the Rule of Law.