Saturday, August 04, 2007

Preserving Home: Part IV

Over the last fews years, illegal aliens have flooded my community in droves. Everywhere I turn I see Hispanics on foot, on bicycles, in SUVs, and sometimes piled into the beds of pick up trucks. Internally, I am constantly raising the question: legal or illegal?

Some estimates put the illegal population of my community at 11%. If true, that means that more than one in ten people living here has no legal right to be here. It means that more than one in ten living here have crashed the border, broken the rules, and entered without invitation.

In March of this year, I entered the fight to rid my community of those who have come without permission, by joining Help Save Manassas, a non-partisan group of citizens who have begun to speak out and demand action from our local government leaders. To date, our voice is being heard and our leaders are being responsive.

I have been telling the story of how I have come to love my country. My love of country is behind my desire to defend it from invasion. You are reading Part IV of a series. If you have not done so, please read Part I, Part II, and Part III before proceeding any further.

Our ten months in San Antonio zipped by. Before I even had time to think much about it, we once again piled into our Chevy Nomad, and headed up the road and back to Ohio.

Our route home took a slightly different course. We stopped in Dallas and spent a day at the Six Flags Over Texas theme park. While there I learned of the six flags that have flown over Texas. They are: Spain, France, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, The Confederate States of America, The United States of America. Texas was actually its own country from 1836 to 1845.

Heading north out of Dallas, we reached Tulsa, Oklahoma. There, our Nomad took us onto the famed U.S. Route 66. Known as America's Mother Road, old Route 66 connected Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. Work began on Route 66 in 1927. Eleven years later, in 1938, the paving was finally completed.

By the time our Nomad's wheels touched the Mother Road, almost half of her life-span had already occurred. In 1985, the US Department of Transportation decommissioned Route 66 because the Interstate system had superceded her usefulness. Today, a few sections of the road in Illinois, New Mexico, and Arizona are considered "Historic U.S. Route 66." In November of 2005, I traveled a brief stretch of the old historic route near Seligman, Arizona, the setting of the Disney/Pixar film Cars.

Legend and lore surround Route 66. During the Dust Bowl era of the 1930's, thousands of Okies (that's short for Oklahomans) traveled the road west to California's Sunshine state, seeking opportunity for work and simple survival. John Steinbeck's classic American story, The Grapes of Wrath, is set in this time period, and along this road. Immortalized by Bobby Troup's jazz composition, (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, and later by a television series of the same name, the legendary road boasts many stories and tales.
Route 66
by Bobby Troup
Now you go through Saint looey
Joplin, Missouri,
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona.
Don’t forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernandino.

I remember passing through eastern Oklahoma and the endless collection of fields and farms. As our Nomad slipped quietly along the dark ribbon of highway between canyons of wheat and corn, I received a new, fresh sense of this land called America, breadbasket to the world. I had not yet heard the Biblical phrase "beat their swords into plowshares," but as I grew older, I would come to understand that here, in America, it had really happened.

In my life, I, a Protestant Christian, have dined with Catholics and Orthdox Christians, as well as Muslims. I have become friends or made aquaintance with first generation Vietnamese, Polish, Pakistani, eastern Indian, Nigerian, South African, El Salvadoran, Venezualan, Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Romanian, Belarusian, Norwegian, Peruvian, Kurdish Iraqi, Iranian, Korean, Serbian, and Afghani immigrants. And I am certain I have overlooked a few.

Recently, at a committee meeting for Help Save Manassas, I sat a table with two Catholic men as we brainstormed some ideas for a project we had been brought together to work on. It occurred to me that just a few hundred years ago, such a meeting would not likely have taken place. For in those days, one or the other of us would have been labeled a heretic and burned at the stake by the other.

But not here. Not in America where people of good will from all corners of the earth have learned to respect and honor one another despite the differences. We men sat at that table together, focused on a common purpose, not even thinking about how our ancestors had already beat their swords into plowshares, and determined to make "war no more." We, the blessed beneficiaries of those decisions made long ago, often take for granted the shared peace we enjoy as Americans.

Sadly, there are forces today committed to disrupting that peace, joined in a battle to destroy what our parents, grandparents, and their parents and grandparents built in generations past. Sometimes we have to temporarily beat our plowshares back into swords to defend ourselves against invaders and interlopers of various stripes.

For four diificult years, America's peace was disrupted as we fought amongst ourselves. Our plowshares became swords employed against our fellow Americans. But those swords were beaten back into plowshares once that conflict ceased. We have since beaten our plowshares into swords only to defend ourselves from foreign invasion, or what we saw as that potential.

The invaders who have recently and illegally crossed our borders and taken up residence in our communities, have not come with swords. Instead they come with false identification papers, and a claim to the same rights as native-born and naturalized Americans. On the whole, they show little respect for, and even less understanding of, the "swords into plowshares" idea.

Others who seek to do us harm are holed up in caves, halfway around the globe. They plot our demise, and conspire to destroy us with stolen and ill-approriated technology that their feeble cultures could have never produced on their own.

But our greatest enemies are those here rightfully by birth. These are Americans who have forsaken the original vision of our forefathers, and seek to rewrite not only our history, but our future as well. Such are those infected with a putrid philosophy that reaches back to Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and the like. They weaken us.

All of these people, at their core, hate liberty. But they love license, as long as they are the ones holding the license, controlling the purse strings, and sitting smugly in the seats of power.

Yes, we are temporarily beating our plowshares back into swords. And we are beginning to mass ourselves along the wall, taking up our posts in defense of our city, our state, our nation.

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

We reached Cincinnati in three days. My sister, brother and I stayed with my aunt and uncle, while Dad and Mom continued on to Cleveland to get themselves oriented, and find us a place to live.

They found a home for rent in the Cleveland suburb of Parma. Our two weeks with our cousins passed quickly as Dad and Mom returned to collect us and take us north.

Our rented brick rambler did not sit at the top of the rise on the grade of our street. It sat about halfway between the top of the hill and the bottom of the hill. I could only see a few houses in each direction.

But across the street, and up several houses, a wooded, vacant lot called my name. On that lot a tall tree beckoned me. In Cincinnati I had spent three years with a massive forest as my own, private backyard. In Texas we barely had a single tree. I had to climb.

From the top of that tree, which swayed precariously under my weight, I spied the Cleveland skyline some twelve miles away. I had never seen anything quite so fascinating. Yes, I had seen pictures of the New York City skyline. But seeing one with my own eyes, my own personal skyline, now that was something else.

My America took another giant leap forward.

We stayed in that house but one short year. A Polish family lived next door. The kids had been born in America. But their parents had just recently immigrated here from Poland. What a lovely family.

Parma was a true blue-collar town. Though boasting an Italian name, Parma's residents were primarily Polish. I would later learn that much of Cleveland's West Side consisted of immigrants from eastern Europe who had come to America to make a better life. Most were first or second generation families.

The Cleveland winter of '62-'63 brought much snow and cold. One night our neighbor's car stalled down the hill, and Dad and I went down to help. Snow whipped at our faces. Wind tore at our parkas and hoods. The next day I learned that the tempature that night had dropped to 19 degrees below zero. This frigid reading came before weathermen employed adjustments for the wind chill factor.

With a wind speed of twenty-five mph (not at all unbelievable considering the gusts), I calculate that the wind chill dropped the temperature to an equivalent of 70 degrees below zero that night. I will never forget that dark, frigid, frozen episode. And miraculously, my Dad got our friend's car running, and he was able to get it back up into his driveway.

That winter dumped tons of snow on Cleveland. Sitting on Lake Erie, we often suffered winter's most brutal wrath. School closed for a week, an unprecendented move in northern Ohio. Drifts of snow reached up to our roofline, engulfing gutters, and completely covering windows. We had to shovel ourselves out the front door.

We built snowmen and snow forts and tunnels. Our Flexible Flyers quickly whisked us down the icy street to the bottom of the hill. Laden with boots, scarves, gloves, and hooded parkas, we trudged back up, sleds in tow, and shot down again and again.

Good times indeed. And what a contrast to the previous winter in San Antonio, where we ran barefoot through the grass in January.

Summer came, school ended, and Dad and Mom purchased a home ten miles to the west in a quaint little town named Berea. There I would spend my teen years, and grow through youth and into a man.

Four and a half years later, in Berea, Ohio, a quiet suburb of that dirty, bustling, rust-belt city of Cleveland, I would encounter the living God face to face for the first time, and say "Yes, Lord, yes."

Part V


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