Opinion: Personal Patriotism

On left my great-uncle Yuda Beikherov aka Julius Birdman at his hardware store in Philly my grandfather helped him set up

I’ve been quiet on the newsletter front.  Really I haven’t known what to say at a time that every unthinking focus on deliciousness makes me flinch.  I wrote an essay right after the election but didn’t know if it was “appropriate” to share.  All these months later I still find it hard to focus on purely foodie centered stories and my twitter feed is like a whiplash between difficult social issues and yay, ice cream! (Not that there’s anything wrong with ice cream). So in order to move on I’m sharing that essay I’ve kept on ice until now.

For a month after the election I slogged through each day with my new companions nausea, heartache and an all-encompassing sense of physical grief. This intense mourning shared with friends, colleagues and total strangers had me wondering why.  Not why the outcome of the election, but why the reaction was so deep, so utterly personal.
I never thought of myself as a patriotic person.  Patriotism in my mother’s circle had more than a whiff of nationalism that led to deep pain before during and after WWII.  So flag waving and pins or saluting a leader weren’t our way of expressing belonging. Our way was acceptance and assimilation to the ideals of America, a loving and respectful embrace of an idea greater than any single one of us.  The progressive dream I grew up with was one of a place of safety and care for all combined with the capitalist impulse to thrive through one’s talents and the (now considered socialist) need to share when one could with those in need which was possible by not spending on frivolous purchases.
My “people”, Jews from what is now Belarus, formerly the Pale of Settlement came here a scant hundred years ago running from brutalization and fear.  They came as refugee immigrants nearly always come, in limbo between a home that no longer exists and a future yet to be conceived.  But there were dreams.  The dreams intertwined with the ideals of America.  That constitution so unusual in its reach.  The opportunity to shuck off a suit of victimhood and marginalization and button up what it meant to be an American.  (An extraordinary opportunity afforded by white privilege)  Work hard, earn to make your family secure.  Give back and understand that all communities are a reflection of your community and you should be a reflection of theirs. Protect the natural beauty of the country because it is unique and un-recreate-able.  Agree that not every single thing needs to be for sale. Revel in the opportunities afforded by free or nearly free education.

I’m an American, a Californian, an Angelena raised in a blue collar Los Feliz/Silver Lake of the fifties and sixties that was a model of racial, cultural, religious and economic diversity  The reason I feel so sick?  My America, the one that felt like maybe the dream was getting closer, was mugged.  So I was mugged.  It turns out I’ve been patriotic all along.

Fear of what may lie ahead is frightening for many.  But I am hoping for one thing. That finally foodies and food justice advocates bridge the divide. I hope those obsessed with the new, the hip, the delicious will also become obsessed with food and economic justice because we can’t solve the problem of hunger and a degraded planet in isolation.  We are children of the earth’s soil, literally.  We survive through what is grown in it and we drink from a finite amount of water that circulates through it.  If you love all that food is and you want more people to have enough of it,  learn to fight for it.

10 thoughts on “Opinion: Personal Patriotism

  1. Thank you for sharing your innermost feelings with all of us. This has truly been an Annus Horrilibus (sp?) for all of us Proud Daughters, or Granddaughters, of Immigrants who struggled to get here and worked so hard to give their descendants a piece of the American Dream.
    If a bully’s wife gives talks on how to fight bullies, all cannot be lost and The Dream will Prevail.

    ps. I miss Angeli SO MUCH.

  2. Thank you for sharing Evan! It takes guts in this environment to share in this way. Your not alone. My hope is we as a nation wake up from this nightmare & carve a new more hopeful path. Fingers crossed.

      • Or run for office or take part in local councils or support someone in running for office… whatever people can feasibly make time for. Thank you for this article. Stumbled upon Good Food podcast on my drive home recently, and I am so glad to be listening to someone so thoughtful.

  3. Thank you Evan. I am also still in shock over the election. I am first generation in this country. My parents were both concentration camp survivors and immigrated here in ’48.

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