I remember. I was seven years old. We were hiding in the mountains of Albania from the Nazis. With no running water. No electricity. Far away from any civilization, not knowing when the war would end or how it would end. Fearing for our lives, expecting that at any moment, a Gestapo officer might show up at our door and take us to the gas chambers. Like they did to the rest of my family.
And then, one afternoon, we heard planes flying over our hiding place. We ran out to look. We saw the American star on the wings of the planes. I was holding my mother’s hand tightly. She was crying and whispering “Esto es, esto es.” (In the medieval Spanish we spoke at home, this meant: “This is it, this is it.”): Freedom is coming. America is coming to save us.
I will never forget that day. For me, America stands for freedom, for help to the oppressed. For hope. For justice. For opportunities without discrimination.
And the flag and the anthem symbolize what America is for me.
Whenever the American anthem is played, I put both of my hands on my heart. And I get teary. And I remember that day. And when people burn the flag I am in pain. What does the flag represent to them that it does not represent to me?
What is the difference between liking and loving?
You like someone because of…
You love somebody in spite of….
Every country must have some symbol of unity. Political parties might fight with each other. Religious sects might show intolerance to each other. We have racial problems to overcome. But in spite of the differences we must cherish our unity and that unity is symbolized by something.
In a monarchy it is the king or the queen.
What is it in a republic?
To me it is the flag and the national anthem.
I love America in spite of its deficiencies. I would not kneel when singing the anthem. And I would not burn the flag. They are the symbol of our unity; Together in spite of everything. I would find other ways to show my despair and dissatisfaction with whatever injustice there is. And there is.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes