Tag Archives: FOurth of July

The Sirens of Summer

4 Jul

Although we would go up to the Catskills for Memorial Day Weekend to get our bungalow ready for the summer, we would not begin our true summer stay until Fourth of July weekend. On the east coast, school usually did not finish until the end of June, making the beginning of July the true start of summer.

What a great time it was to be finally up in the Catskills. The weather in the City was already getting too warm, especially without air conditioning. All we could think about were the cool mornings and evenings of the mountains; the endless days of outdoor fun, swimming, boating, and just having fun with friends and cousins.

But there was one sound of summer that we all dreaded. The sirens of summer were a portent of something bad happening.   Whenever we heard the sirens go off from Kauneonga Lake, and saw the cars and pick up trucks carrying the volunteer firemen rush to the station, we knew something horrible had happened.   It was not usually a fire. It was usually a boating accident or a drowning.

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My nephew waterskiing in a boat driven by cousins. Kauneonga Lake 2013.

I remember the look on my mother’s face whenever the sirens went off. It was a mask of anguish. When I became old enough to go out on a boat with friends, she always told me to wear my life jacket; to be careful; and not to fool around.

Every teen who drove a boat was supposed to take lessons and pass a driving test. The office was near the fire station.   I remember going with friends as they went for the test.   But I also know that many times, knowing the rules and following the rules were not the same.

For instance, several of us were canoeing one day, when friends came by in their motor boat. They thought it was great fun to swamp us and make our canoe overturn and fill with water. Luckily we were not too far from the edge of the lake where we could touch bottom. I still remember lifting the canoe over our heads and walking it out of the lake.

But honestly, the young adults I hung out with were usually very careful when out on the lake. We never had an accident or caused one. We might have done a few foolish things in our time, but we also knew that safety was important on the lake.  They never cut off a person who was water skiing or got too close to another boat, unless we were going very slowly and met to meet up.  Yes, we went fast sometimes, but in our day during the week, there were not that many boats on the lake.

Unfortunately, not everyone follows the rules.   And each summer, the sirens would go off.   We knew that someone was in trouble. Eventually we would hear about a drowning or near drowning.  We were thankful for the volunteers who took the time and effort to try a water rescue.  Many of them were friends of my grandfather and father.  So we often heard the entire story of what stupid fooling around caused the tragedy.

With the Fourth of July here, I wish everyone a safe summer. Enjoy your time on the water. Boating is much fun.  I still love the thrill of riding around the lake in a boat.  I love the thrill of hitting the waves produced by other boats.  But I always have a life jacket near by. I know that my cousins will take no unsafe risks.

I pray that this year, no one has to hear the sirens of summer.

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What I Think About on The 2016 Fourth of July

4 Jul

I am a fortunate person. My paternal great grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1880s, and my maternal grandparents arrived in the early 1920s, before the Immigration Act of 1924 severely limited immigration and imposed a strict quota system. It was a bigoted act designed to limit immigration of Africans as well as Southern Europeans and Eastern Europeans.   It actually banned the immigration of Arabs and Asians.   It was due to this horrible act that so many Jewish people trying to escape Nazi Germany were banned from entering the United States and were murdered.

Finally, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was passed and enacted on June 30, 1968, just in time for a Fourth of July celebration. It ended the strict limits of the quota systems and allowed preference visa categories that took into account an immigrant who had family members who were citizens, as well as an immigrant’s special skills.

Think of what this act might have meant for tens of thousands of Jews stuck in Europe. In my own family, the 1924 act caused the death of my grandfather’s family. He was able to get Visa’s for his parents, but not for his siblings. His parents refused to leave. And so everyone perished in the Holocaust.   My grandmother was able to get a visa for her father and younger sister, but not her brothers. Fortunately they survived.

The Immigration Act of 1990 increased the total immigration allowed and the number of visas from the 1965 law. But also in the 1990s other laws were passed to make it more difficult for legal and illegal immigrants adding reasons for deportations, according to a Wikipedia article on “The Laws Concerning Immigration.”

But the world changed on September 11, 2001, and along with it views on immigration. People got scared. We began to allow fear to rule the country. And if we do that, we let the terrorist win through fear. That is what they want.

We seemed to have gone back to the ways of the 1920s, when the white men in power seemed so afraid of those that were different. Many restrictive laws were enacted before women had the right to vote. The 19th Amendment was only ratified on August 18, 1920. At first many women did not vote. It took time for women to stand up and have their voices heard.

I cannot prove that having women’s votes changed the direction of the United States, but I believe that women voters have influenced many aspects of life in the USA.

The fact that we now have three women on the Supreme Court has made a difference. The fact that we have women in office on all levels of government: local, state, national, has made a difference. The fact that we have had women running for the two highest offices in the USA: vice president and president, has made a difference.

I am so proud and glad to be a citizen of the United States of America. I am so glad that my ancestors made the journey to the USA in times that were so difficult and were allowed to settle here and become citizens.

I hope that we all remember what is written in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

We must not let fear of the other make us forget that the United States was founded by the ‘other.’ Everyone who signed the original Declaration of Independence was the descendant of an immigrant. We were not perfect. The treatment of the Native Americans and slave ownership was not right. But the founders did their best with the information they had. The Constitution helped them make changes to reflect the society. Slavery ended, women got the right to vote.

With the death of Elie Wiesel, we must remember his words as he reminded us of the Shoah and our responsibility to keep another one from happening: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

And we must side with the victim. We are a country founded by people searching for religious freedom, searching for a place to live with freedoms and the rights to be as equal as anyone else.

This Fourth of July, we must not give in to fear and hatred. We must protect those fleeing from war. We must not become a bigoted, hateful country. We must remain the defender of the victim. That is the heritage I want to rejoice on this July Fourth.