Last week, Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman testified before the House Intelligence Committee regarding the impeachment inquiry. Some guardians of the land of the free and the home of the brave suggested that LTC Vindman was not loyal to this country. My father faced the same accusation.
Vindman, a Jew, immigrated from Ukraine at three, grew up in Brooklyn and received a degree from elitist Harvard. All tip-offs. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, he swore to protect and defend the Constitution. No real patriot would be fooled by that. Twenty-two years in uniform? A combat infantryman’s badge? A purple heart? Deceptions.
As to my father Morris: When America entered World War Two, he sought to become an air-raid warden. A routine investigation followed. Someone accused him of having been a spy for Tsarist Russia before and during World War One. Made sense, I suppose.
In 1906, Dad arrived at Ellis Island with my grandparents from Poland, then part of the Russian Empire. He was 2-1/2 (whether he was smoking a cigar remains undetermined) and obviously impressionable. Also clever. He claimed he remembered nothing about Warsaw. He spoke fluent English (with a New York accent). Ruses.
In 1914, the Perlsteins became citizens just as the Great War sent Russia reeling and in need of all the assistance it could get. Citizenship obviously enabled my father, 11, to go deep undercover. His smokescreen included baseball—playing in the schoolyard and rooting for the Yankees and Giants.
Russia sought information about American intentions. And what revealed American thinking more than baseball? Was Yankees right fielder Doc Cook a favorite of young boys? Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson? Did immigrant fifth-graders, America’s future soldiers and mothers of soldiers, really prefer penmanship and learning times tables to working in the fields? Were they exposed to endless propaganda about the countries from which their families fled for better economic opportunities and safety, particularly after Jews streamed to these shores following the 1905 pogroms in Kishinev and Kiev?
More proof against my father: Excellent report cards and a bar-mitzvah in 1916. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, he lacked kinship with salt-of-the-earth Christian-American kids packed off to coal mines, stockyards, fields and factories.
Ridiculous? Sure. No one accused my father of being a Tsarist spy, although he did have to submit a lot of paperwork before becoming an air-raid warden in Queens. And for the record, his love of cigars started at 12.
But there’s a point to be made. Defenders of President Trump tend to go off their meds. It’s not that they refuse to believe that he withheld from Ukraine American aid appropriated by Congress until Ukrainian president Zelensky agreed to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden and his presidential-candidate father Joe. And investigate Ukrainian interference in America’s 2016 election, although U.S. intelligence agencies pointed the finger at Russia, and William Mueller got indictments on 17 Russians.
It’s that they prefer character assassination to facts. So some attacked LTC Vindman to make a point of their own: If you weren’t born on American soil to American parents, you’re suspect.
Where then does that leave First Lady Melania Trump, who came to America from Slovenia in 1996 at age 26? I take her loyalty for granted. Does that make me, a native son, disloyal?
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