Betrayal of the American Conscience

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic

There is a betrayal that overwhelms and ravages the human heart and soul. There is a betrayal that assaults and insults the sensibilities and vulnerabilities that bind and bridge one nation under God.

BETRAYAL OF THE AMERICAN CONSCIENCE

By Al Garcia

There is a betrayal that overwhelms and ravages the human heart and soul.  There is a betrayal that assaults and insults the sensibilities and vulnerabilities that bind and bridge one nation under God.  And there is a betrayal that assails tradition and belief in truth, in justice and in honor.  Last week we saw the betrayal of the American conscience and the erosion and corrosion of America’s greatness.  It was the betrayal of America, and a day that will long live in infamy.

I saw ill-disguised prejudices, prejudgments and predispositions camouflaged with insolent civility and partisan rhetoric.  I saw a shifting and drifting legislative body of our government begin its descent into the bowels of the uncharted abyss of tyranny.  And I heard the requiem of subjugation and defeat uttered by intimidated and vanquished legislators.  All that was missing was the stifling and suffocating heat found in many third-world countries, and of course, armed soldiers banishing machine guns at the doors and in the balcony of the U.S. Senate chamber.

I believed in so many things growing up in America.  I even believed in dreams and was told I could make my dreams come true if I just strived hard enough and believed.  I believed in family and in friends, and I believed in God and the promise of life everlasting.  But as a young naïve young man growing up in America, I mostly believed in the greatness of America and the promises I read about and heard about, and saw around me every day – the promise that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Truths that according to our Founders, are self-evident. Truths that I believed applied to everyone of whatever color, creed or ethnicity, even to a brown-skinned boy like me.  I believed in our President and in the institutions that upheld our traditions and inspired us to achieve and succeed in all we did. 

But words and promises, no matter how eloquent or powerful, do not always translate well into real life and into the daily lives of real people simply trying to exist – and I also learned this truth growing up in America.  And that was my first betrayal of innocence – the realization that not all men are created equal, and that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not automatically bestowed on all, and not ever on some.  It was the betrayal of the American promise that I learned early on as a young brown boy growing up along the Rio Grande.

As a young boy, this betrayal was not easy to accept or handle. To come to the realization that I was an American, but that my family and I were not recognized or accepted as American, was bewildering and baffling to me, even at that young age. This was an awareness within the depth of me that broke my heart and darkened my soul. And it wasn’t spoken of, it was just an accepted part of life – my life.  How could I explain to someone not brown or black or yellow, the pain that lingers inside the heart and soul of a young boy like me, betrayed simply because of the color of my skin and a heritage older than the country I was born into?

Time, changing seasons, patience, and because of the willingness of some to stand up and speak up – especially men and women elected to Congress, changes began to occur, and the social and political atmosphere and tone of the America I lived in began to turn and move forward and upward.  And with the changing tides, so too came my ability to blend in, fit in, and eventually realize my unalienable rights that had been denied to me and to many before me for so long. Little did I know, however, that there was yet one more betrayal to come in my life.  A betrayal more profound, more vulgar and deceitful – the ultimate betrayal.

It is hard to put into words, much less to make someone feel, the anguish, the ache, the stress and the loneliness of war. Imagine young boys being rounded up, loaded on airplanes and dropped off in the middle of a war -- unprepared, inexperienced, raw, innocent young boys. Now imagine a feeling of knowing you’ve been used and lied to by someone you trusted and believed – your own country -- America.  The war was Vietnam.  And that was the hard reality for many of us just coming of age -- not yet men, but forced to grow up too fast, too soon.

For many of us naïve young boys and men who found ourselves in Vietnam in the 1960s, we quickly learned the truth about Vietnam and the truth about the American presence there. We were simply a bunch of boys and young men thrown into a hailstorm of political and hostile warfare, without strategy or direction, other than to persevere.  And when many of us realized the situation we had been placed in, a sense of betrayal overcame us, along with a sense of fear.  That was quickly followed by frustration, disappointment and finally disillusionment. We were simply pawns in a political game of chicken – and we were the chicken that was getting run over on the road.  But for me, even this was not the ultimate betrayal.

And, after all these years, the memories and the guilt of growing up with prejudice and bias has not left me, nor have the images or sounds of war faded from my mind.  Betrayal does so many different things to people.  I knew about death growing up along the Rio Grande, and could conceive of it and understand it in my own way.  But I could not accept the death of friends my age in Vietnam, who had dreams to fulfill and lives to complete.  And what I could never have conceived of then or now, was the betrayal I recently witnessed on the Senate floor. 

On January 6, 2021, I felt a sadness and shame because of my shattered delusion that Congress was America’s guardian of truth, of justice and of hope.  That is no more.  This has become the ultimate betrayal of the American dream that I have lived and helped to bolster and strengthen with my service to my country and my belief in America’s greatness through strength, charity, tolerance and humility. 

There was more than a betrayal of America that occurred last week in the Senate.  There was a betrayal of America’s potential that will never be realized.  My youth was a failure of acceptance and respect, and later on, Vietnam was a failure of shared hopes and discarded dreams – two betrayals that still linger inside my shattered soul.  Now, I must deal with the greatest betrayal of them all – by men and women too scared or so immorally bankrupt that they cannot uphold their oath of office as I and many other young men my age did in Vietnam so many years ago.  Too many friends died upholding their oath and believing in their truth in Vietnam.  Yet our Senators could not take the time nor speak their truth to power on our behalf and behalf of our great nation.  This saddens me.  This betrays my trust in those empowered to protect and defend us.  But more importantly, the Senate betrayed the American conscience and the memories of thousands of young men and women who sacrificed their lives for our Senators’ privilege of serving and representing them and us.  The Senators failed. 

There was not only a betrayal of the American conscience, but a betrayal of those of us who through the best and worst of times, have believed in America, and still do, despite the betrayal of our trust. 


Submitted: May 23, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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