Dear Editor (Queens Chronicle):
It seems that I have written about this every Memorial Day and Fourth of July for the past five years – we see few American flags flying in South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill, and the situation only seems to deteriorate with each passing year. I am disgusted by the lack of patriotism and appreciation for America shown by immigrants in this section of Queens. No American flags fly, but there is a bounty of flags from Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad, Mexico, India and Pakistan. It seems the only symbol of America that counts to this bunch is the U.S. dollar.
A few weeks ago, I happened to catch a ceremony from the White House — the president was presiding over the Oath of Citizenship of over 100 immigrants. Those taking the oath came from all over the world, and so many of them were in U.S. uniform — they had joined the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines, actively serving in the military, defending American freedom in dangerous places like Iraq and Afghanistan before becoming U.S. citizens.
Watching them sworn in as Americans was so touching. You could see how much it meant to them – imagine putting yourself in harms’ way for a nation you are not yet a citizen of? Think of the great sense of love and commitment they have. Anyone would be proud just to stand in the same room with them. It would be wonderful if the “newcomers” in my neighborhood possessed just a fraction of the sense of patriotism displayed by those new citizens.
I was just a kid when I watched JFK sworn in as president and I heard the words that inspired a generation: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Those words are inscribed near JFK’s final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery. You can read them while looking out over the countless graves of brave and decent Americans, many of whom, like those newest citizens, came from other countries to make a life here and give service to their adopted homeland — some paying the ultimate price. Freedom isn’t free, and living here in the U.S. is a privilege, not a right. If you are going to make a life here, then be appreciative of what has been given to you — stop looking back from whence you came and pitch in and do something for America — and you can start by flying the stars and stripes!