Sunday, July 2, 2017

July 4th and what its meaning is to me - then and now

Growing up July 4th always meant the summer, fairs, swimming and fireworks. When I was a young adult, it just seemed like it was a holiday to be thrown in there. I couldn't (and still can't!) stand the crowds and all that goes along with it. It just seemed to be too much. Of course, when you don't have two pennies to rub together, that might play into things as well. 
Anyhow, then I moved from the US to Australia and as its not a holiday here, it just slips by. We have gone over to visit the US during the July 4th time, but wouldn't you know? We could not find any fireworks and I even asked and one person said there might be some but it was a drive to get to. It was like everyone barred the things that year. 

However, this year? I'm thinking about it because of my genealogy work. My first ancestors to hit the US was in 1892 and was on my maternal side - Alois and Jules Gauquie. This was just a handful of years since The Statue of Liberty's dedication in 1886. I can only imagine what it was like for them. 

Then I think about my paternal side - Adam Wojtkowski. This was the first person on that side to arrive in the US in 1913. True, it was many years since the dedication but I think Adam would have found the statue's meaning and quote even more than the Gauquie's. This was due to the restrictions of rights that had been going on in Poland since before Adam was born and those restrictions were only getting worse. 
Adam's Manifest from Ellis Island's website. The other Wojtkowski (name spelled wrong but all other info correct) people were of same village - not relatives.
Can you imagine not being able to speak your own language in your own country? How about one day being able to go to school and the next being told you can't go to school anymore? Or even having the right to walk down the street and run into a soldier and then being told to go back home even though you were going to do some food shopping (and having very little food as it is) and the soldier not allowing you to keep going and forcing you to turn and go back home without any food? All this was what was going on in Poland. 
1905 May 19 from The Sun in NY NY taken from Chronicling American newspaper section
In each of these instances, although the Gauquie's knew family in the US whereas Adam didn't really  know anyone, you still bought and got onto the ship not knowing if you were going to make it to the US or die on the ship OR if once you got to the US you would be denied from entering the US for some reason and then get shipped back. This was the reality of people immigrating from Europe. One family came, I believe, because they didn't like how just a bit of their rights were being taken away (the Gauquie's from what research I have done). Whereas the other side, had every single thing you can think of taken away just about (the Wojtkowski's from what research I have done). The tale of 2 European groups coming to the US but under such different circumstances! 

My paternal grandmother told me many times growing up about how when they came into the NY Harbor (in September 1920) and saw the Statue of Liberty standing so tall and beautiful with the sun behind her and the water twinkling like jewels, she felt safe and happy for the first time in such a long time. She knew then and there that she had hope and freedom and that's what that lady in the harbor stood for. The whole and each time she told me about this, she had tears in her eyes. The only other time she was like that was talking about her parents. This is what the 4th of July means to me. 
Taken from the National Parks Service website
Taken from the Wiki site
You could feel the change before today, and some say it started after September 11th and how today's children would never know about feeling like how we did in our youth. Here's the story if you want to read it and I have to admit for most of it the author is correct. However, what makes me feel dirty is the current situation within the USA. 

People turning on others just to do it - over anything and everything. There are things going on in the last 6 months and I'm actually - for the first time EVER - ashamed to be an American. If this is making America great again then I'm stumped by how. People shooting others and killing just over 300 times since the start of the year, a president that insults
From Mass Shootings
others and reminds me of things I've seen in the playground by bullies, the government - who we pay for their public service - (which is supposed to make the US people feel reassured about their government) are blocking or delaying live feeds from the White House Press Secretary which is not reassuring anyone about their competencies but makes you wonder what they are hiding and the list goes on and on. 

You should hear about what the international press are even saying about Trump and even if I wanted to try and defend him, you can't. Why? Because he does stupid things like calling people names or re-releasing  a video from years ago and instead of a person's head he amends it to put a News
Taken from Twitter
company's name on it? Further to all of that, he's 'beating' (its a wresting thing but in the eyes of children - during when this clip has been getting paid they will see it - they will think this is alright especially if the President is doing it) up a person or something that has a common media logo on it. The whole thing is just screwy. 

I can just see the people who put so much into the Statue of Liberty which was a symbol OF liberty just shaking their heads and crying. Why? Because American used to be so much better than it is currently. 

Taken from Wikipedia 
I leave you with this part of the famous within The New Colossus:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"

This is what America is about - not what its become over the last 6 months.