Reborn I I am an American. I was born here. My parents were born here. My grandparents were immigrants, fled persecuted lands beyond the protection of law, decency. Some of my family were devoured by the great evil that swept Europe, suspending humaneness, destroying fellow beings without remorse Yet some escaped, came to the promised land, rudely welcomed at Ellis Island like countless thousands before, despised by earlier settlers, until assimilation dispersed origins sufficiently to allow moderate acceptance of new citizens who never forgot the whips of the Cossacks, the clubs of the polezei. And their children flourished in the new land, despite peasant ignorance of a modern city with jobs, apartments, comforts inconceivable from whence they came. They daringly began to feel they belonged to this confusing nation, enduring intolerance, insults, indignities, sporadic beatings, but never arbitrary arrest, arbitrary imprisonment. The children of the children of the daring grandparents who bravely fled dangerous countries, crossing perilous, unwelcoming lands, reaching dazzling seaports as foreign to simple folk as to their forebears centuries before coming to a city. Then a frightening sea voyage on a metal monster belching toxic fumes, sick from churning waves, then the mad rush to the rail, the Statue of Liberty beckoning a friendly shore. It took a while for the alien folk to begin to find a place and when the worst that happened was street kids mocking old world ways they started to believe no one would break down their door, snatch their children off the streets. And they found a new security. They didn’t learn much English, but it never mattered to me since they fed me lavishly and only scolded me when they caught me at mischief, a frequent occurrence. So the children of immigrants made blue-collar places for themselves, got more education than they would have in harsher climes, worked hard, ate well, slept soundly, survived a great depression that crushed so many Americans, had children and multiplied, served their country in World War II, supported their country loyally against the communist menace and their children grew up with comforts unknown to their ancestors persecuted in cruel lands. Then the grandchildren of immigrants who found the American dream graduated high school, went to college, developed careers that brought prosperity, while many of their countrymen, denied opportunity lingered in poverty, some at low paying jobs others on welfare, some not motivated to improve their lives, the lives of their children. II The offspring of immigrants built middle class lives, while too many people were callously abandoned to the squalor of neglect by minions of the lords of profit, their masters rabid consumption of the wealth and resources of a prosperous nation devouring more and more, refusing to share with those in need, concocting a corporate philosophy of detachment from obligation to the sheltering nation that no longer received taxes, ensuring too many citizens would not be assisted by an unraveling government. It took a while for descendants of immigrants, those who did not prosper, to recognize equality was determined by wealth. Graduates of prestigious schools fared better than others in the pursuit of careers that would assure success, the reward of accomplishment, luxury homes, luxury cars, old master paintings, while the underprivileged huddled in public housing unable to conceive they lived better than the poor of eld. One great inequity of a callous system is sports scholarships to competing athletes, skills developed in outreach programs structured to identify exceptional prospects, groomed through youth leagues, high school, college, the pros, until some had good lives. While in our slums, public housing, there are no programs to discover the intellectually gifted mathematicians, scientists, vital in the Information Age. As the divide grows wider between haves and have-nots there’s no sense of obligation to most of the people not on a prosperity track. The wealthy grown so insulated from feelings of compassion they no longer notice the suffering of the people, passing human wreckage on the streets blind to scars of deprivation, driving past houses of squalor in expensive autos without seeing crumbling abodes. The mansions of the rich girded by protective walls, guarded by security armed, ready to fire to maintain the tranquility of the lords of profit that allows continuation of acquisition efforts to consolidate the wealth of a nation in controlling hands, unwilling to share the bounty of the land with those below them, only permitting a trickle down effect, pennies for many, dollars for a few.
About the author:
Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director. He worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pr, a ditch digger, and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes, and Sophocles have been produces Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 34 poetry collections, 14 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays, and 5 books of plays. Gary lives in New York City.