Sunday, November 6, 2016

About my America

I remember when I was about 10 or 11 years old, while still living in former Soviet Union, I went to a big concert accompany my grandfather to vote. I remember holding his hand tightly because there were so many people around us and I was afraid of getting lost. The mood was festive. Men, women and children were waving Soviet flags, some were singing popular Soviet songs...I believe it was an unusually warm autumn day.

When we got to the actual polling site, I remember asking my grandfather what was the point of voting if there is only one candidate on the ballot... and I also remember how he immediately pulled me aside and in an angry whisper told me to never, ever repeat that thought out loud to anyone ever again. I recall that it hurt my feelings to know that my grandfather, whom I adored, didn't approve of something I said, especially because it was evident to me that I was right.

Later that evening, my whole family gathered around our black and white TV set. "It's another landslide win for our communist party!" said the news anchor enthusiastically. "Our people have voted! Our ideals have been upheld once again! Long live proletariat and our communist leaders!" All over the news there were celebratory reports of yet another successful, "unanimous" win of a communist party. Of course, the communist party and its candidates were the only ones on the ballot. I watched, and for the first time in my life, I had doubts... about adults and life in general. 

My grandfather and grandmother were beautiful and wise people. They have seen it all...And I trusted them completely. I remember them explaining to me that "this is just how things are." They told me that they understood my questions and incredulity. After all, they were the ones who always took me seriously and expected me to think for myself, but for "everyone's safety," they told me, it's best to just not question things...

All during this election year, I have found myself often reflecting on that day which I now realize was a true coming of age moment. To me, that day, was an equivalent to realizing that your parents and grandparents won't live forever and won't be able to protect you from this big strange, illogical world. It was a hard pill to swallow.

Political discourse has never interested me before. Those seeds of distrust in the "system" grew roots in my psyche and those experiences have left a mark (or a scar..) Over the past 10 years, however, I have been paying much more attention. I suppose, the depth of my love for this country have began to outweigh the sad baggage created in me by the country where I was born. Or maybe because İ am now a parent and I have developed a sense of responsibility for the future generations.

Just two short days before our 2016 historic election, I find myself lost in thoughts and often with helpless tears in my eyes. America for me represents a beacon of hope (and, no, these are not just words). My America is the place that was once unknown and now is so dear, so special. My America is one where, I hope, my child is going to grow up and make it an even a better place. My America is the one where "the system" has proven itself over and over since 1776. Sure, it's not perfect! But let me tell you, it is still one of the best (for me, it is THE best) places to live. 

And since I so often don't have many answers, the following questions are running through my mind:

- will America be alright after this election?
- will the world be alright?
- will we be able to look each other in the eye on November 9 if the unthinkable happens?
- will I still feel at home here?
- will I still feel safer here than anywhere in the world?
- will there still be freedom of speech? Or will I have to tell my child that for "everyone's safety," it's best to keep our views private?
- will I have to hide that I am an immigrant, a refugee, a woman, a person of Jewish descent, or that I have an accent, or that I am married to a Turkish man? Or that I am an American citizen? Or anything else that makes me who I am?
- will 2016 be the kind of coming of age, rude awakening moment for my son akin to the one I experienced over 30 years ago? 
- will history be repeated...? 

And so with all these questions unanswered or unanswerable, with hope for a kinder world in which reason and common sense can prevail, with deepest love and gratitude for my beautiful America, MY country, and, admittedly, with a very heavy heart, I anxiously anticipate results of this unusual election.

May God bless America! My America... our America.