My love for America began much before I even dreamed of reaching its shores. In post-war Hungary, recovery was the only thing on peoples’ minds. In the background, the specter of communism was ever lurking.
While I was still a child, distant relatives in Ohio sent me toys and books with brightly colored pictures of Mickey Mouse, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the story of The Wizard of Oz with a scary tornado and weird looking hammerheads, beautiful Dorothy skipping on the Yellow Brick Road toward the Emerald City, with her friends the Cowardly Lion, the Strawman, and the Tinman, and her faithful dog, Toto. I also got a bag of brightly colored glass marbles which became the envy of my classmates. I saw movies with cowboys galloping through the dusty golden deserts of the West, ever shooting but never reloading. They all added up into a colored kaleidoscope of a land of freedom, action, happiness, and promise.
To me, America was the Magic Kingdom itself.
Then the curtain fell, an Iron Curtain. It blocked out the sun and my world became hopeless and dark. The air exuded the smell of sulfur. My family’s story (adults only) includes brainwashing, propaganda, victory marches, spied on by neighbors, accusations, loss of all property, imprisonment of family, even torture. Dante’s vision of Hell, aka communism. The land of promises. The names Marx, Engels, and the father of our country, Stalin, came up with creepy regularity. No wonder it smelled like rotten eggs.
After a decade of this, suddenly and mercifully for the brief time of a few weeks, the landscape changed to a new vision in which dreams come true. God came to my rescue. Young people rose up against the tyrant, risked death against thousands of tanks, and they won a victory against the Devil, though later faced execution and imprisonment.
Following the 1956 revolt in Hungary, a daring escape, and a long flight to New York, I was once again free. As an innocent and uninformed young man, I fell into the arms of Lady Liberty. She held me briefly then lovingly released me into the future: decades of opportunity, unlimited choices, poverty and isolation, menial hard work and, finally, success and contentment.
As promised, America delivered. My childhood dreams came true beyond belief. It even included working on the moon landing and the space shuttle. Beyond generosity, it was love. Tough love. Even though my life resembled the life of the tortoise, not of the hare, in the end I won and crossed the finish line. I became an American.
Mine is a small but significant success story. Not a billionaire, but a solid middle-class success story. The story of millions of newcomers who followed their dream, their version of the Emerald City. It was all legal, Lady Liberty exercised her right to decide how many were let in, uncontrolled immigration did not overwhelm society, the culture, the economy, the judicial system, and the safety of her citizens.
Today, the air I smell has the foul tinge of sulfur again. I hear the loud voices of discontentment, elimination culture, smoke and debris fill my nostrils, and I have recurring nightmares. After nearly 65 years, it all looks so familiar. Young people fill the streets, they are on the march again. If asked why, they answer that they fight the evil United States of America.
The America that was the stuff of my dreams. The USA that gave me all that I accomplished. Something is wrong. Lady Liberty is still on America’s shore, though her arm seems a little tired, holding up the heavy torch. She has tears in her eyes. Her historical edifices are being toppled, her magnificent buildings covered with graffiti, her streets empty, shops shuttered, garbage everywhere, and stores looted and burning. There is an eerie lack of police.
Why would anyone wish to cross her borders? And still they are coming by the millions. They still believe in the magic of her history, the gift of freedom, and the richness of her bounty. They come for what I came here for. The Lady should let some of them in.
Lady Liberty, I thank you. I hope your huddled masses also do.
God bless and save America, the land of the brave and of the free.
Tibor Farkas is an aerospace engineer, a writer, and a very fortunate immigrant to the United States of America from Hungary in 1956.
This article was a runner-up in The Epoch Times essay contest “Why I Love America.”