05/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The House I Live In

What is America to me
A name, a map, or a flag I see
A certain word, democracy
What is America to me

Lyrics by: Abel Meeropol

Well into my 77th year I continue to be an idealist and I continue to be disappointed at so much of what we have done as a nation.

I was raised thinking that we were "the good guys" and that our country "did no wrong" and in retrospect I was mistaken.

This morning on NPR I listened to a piece concerning the anniversary of the "massacre" at Columbine. Part of the theme of the discussion was about the killing of innocents at the school.

Bleeding heart liberal that I have become, I had a variety of uncomfortable thoughts about the incident. Here are some of them.

The "scare" word in the fifties until the fall of the Soviet Union in the nineties was "communism." If it was your desire to vilify someone completely you would call them "a Jewish, homosexual Communist." What could be worse than that?

While I appreciate the actual Communist threat, was it in retrospect acceptable that we killed well over 100,000 American boys and girls in Korea and Vietnam in order to stop the Communist "hordes?"

Now, I understand that I have simplified what were a series of challenges to our survival as a nation, nevertheless...

In the 21st century, we have successfully arranged to substitute "terrorism" for "Communism" as a threat to our society. Under the "banner" of fighting "terrorism"
we validated our killing of innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq. Will someone pleas tell me how we were fighting terrorism by killing and destroying another generation of innocents?

While I would mourn those needlessly killed at Columbine, I also mourn the killings of theirs and ours in the pursuit of ... what exactly?

If we are indeed "the good guys" why have we been physically and mentally abusing people in our custody?

While on a roll I would wonder why we of all people have held prisoners and created a name for them. This is so much in keeping with the Bush administrations naming their outrageous activities by calling these prisoners "enemy combatants."

For me the issue of the torture is not its legality or illegality, it is a matter of right or wrong. It is most certainly the wrong thing for Americans to do. What we have done is shameful, and I am ashamed, and we all should be ashamed.

Neil Simon wrote a play called Plaza Suite. In it a woman married for 25 years says something like the following to her husband: "Of course I know you are having an affair with your secretary. I am so disappointed in you. Every man has an affair with their secretary. I somehow expected more of you than that."

Looking back to so much that we as a country have done leads me to the same conclusion which is:

Other nations have destroyed and murdered so many yet I somehow expected so much more from our country, The United States Of America.

Listen to the Frank Sinatra recording of The House I Live in and see if tears do not come to your eyes.

Sadly we have not behaved like the "good guys" that as a child I believed us to be.

In retrospect will someone please explain how we, in the last sixty years, became a ruthless warrior nation who has managed to validate our killing of innocents?

I am a bleeding heart liberal who oversimplifies complex matters which allows for the existence of conscience over expedience!

Norman Horowitz

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