Sunday, March 16, 2008

Gratitude and Ingratitude

Nobody says it better than Mark Steyn. In his take down of Jeremy Wright and his protege, Barack Obama, he makes an interesting and instructive comparison between Irving Berlin and Michelle Obama.
The song the Reverend Wright won’t sing is by Irving Berlin, a contemporary of Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin and Lorenz Hart, all the sophisticated rhymesters. But only Berlin could have written without embarrassment “God Bless America.” He said it directly, unaffectedly, unashamedly — in seven words:

God Bless America
Land that I love.

Berlin was a Jew and he suffered slights: He grew up in the poverty of New York’s Lower East Side. When he made his name and fortune, his marriage to a Park Avenue heiress resulted in her expulsion from the Social Register. In the Thirties, her sister moved in with a Nazi diplomat and proudly flaunted her diamond swastika to Irving. But Berlin spent his infancy in Temun, Siberia (until the Cossacks rode in and razed his village) and he understood the great gift he’d been given:

God Bless America
Land that I love.

The Reverend Wright can’t say those words. His shtick is:

God damn America
Land that I loathe.
Irving Berlin came to the United States at a time when if you were going to make it, you had to make it on your own. There were no government handouts ready for each and every immigrant, legal or illegal, who made it to these shores. Rather than seethe and whine about the hardships and the anti-Jewish prejudice of the day, he worked to succeed and get past all of the hardships and prejudice.

My grandparents came to the U.S. from Russia and Poland around the same time Berlin did, and for the same reasons. As Jews, they wanted to escape the Cossacks, the pogroms, the hatred that kept them prisoner in the ghettos. While neither of my grandfathers made the same kind of living Berlin did, they both contributed to the U.S., made a decent living and raised families. Actually, neither one of them did anywhere near as well, even, as Barack and Michelle Obama, but I never heard either one of them ever complain about having to work hard and struggle. They didn't think anyone owed them anything beyond what they earned. They were able to bounce back from setbacks without demanding welfare. Their children went to public schools, rode busses to get places, and had no resentment about their situation. At least, I never heard it if they did. They were a different breed back then than we are today.

So, Michelle Obama, shut up and stop your whining. You have more than most people in the world can even dream of.

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At 9:19 AM, Blogger jennifer said...

Yes Harry this is what connects you and I. My children have a legacy where they know the struggles of their grandparents and saw how hard all worked to make their way in this land.

And whining and crying...needs to go. I have seen the racism first hand...I mean I was challenged by close friends and even a few siblings for thinking that I could marry a(Mexican) Texan. I was told that my college and ambitions were now wasted and I would never *be* anything or accepted anywhere.

But love...and the shear determination that my husband grew up with elevated us and we have been able to work hard and actually achieve THE American dream.

Oh and for my see Bill in a military uniform made him so proud. That his son understood the love he had for this country and was willing to serve in the military.

Am I rambling? Because Bill was the first to be born in the US, my in-laws sought the advice of many to pick a very strong American name...William Joseph...I love seeing the tears well up in their eyes...because they reflect my feeling for this land.

Those that hate this land or are ashamed, should go oversees on a Sgt. salary as Bill and I, I really came home and LOVED LOVED LOVED America so much more...we were in Europe just months after the wall came down...
Oh well Harry keep the legacy of your ancestors strong.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Harry said...

Your story made me think about both my and my wife's ancestors. Thanks for writing it. Your children have a lot to be proud of.


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