Recently my adult daughter gave me a birthday card that read “Older, Wiser, Balder!” Not sure about the “wiser,” but I humbly agreed with the rest.

Going round the sun one more time offers the sobering chance to pause and reflect on one’s life. I came to Maine as a refugee in the mid-’80s. Feeling nostalgic, I think how today’s America, divided by race, politics and class, is massively different from the country where I came to build a new life. Not that America was always perfect, for history tells us otherwise. America and Americans are complicated. And why wouldn’t they be? But at times I don’t recognize the country I have adored since childhood. I still love America, or parts of it. But it is a terrifying and complex love affair, for America has changed. I still love America’s vastness, freedom and the opportunities it offers. Additionally, I admire Americans’ generosity, optimism and sense of fairness.

As I get older, I find it frustrating to witness the gradual erosion of the trust Americans reserved for their government and their pride in their democracy and rule of law. I miss the days when the peaceful transfer of power, based on election results, was a norm and taken for granted. Now, when politicians belonging to a certain party threaten the rest of us by urging civil war and speak ceaselessly of conspiracies, I miss the old days, and pray for the soul of America. I miss the time when most of the nation cherished American values such as freedom of religion, rule of law, gender and racial equity and respect for science and education. The time when houses of worship were considered sacred and safe.

Looking back, I yearn for the unity that brought us together in the days following 9/11, when, bonded by shared grief, we became one nation. When kneeling in churches, synagogues, mosques and temples, to mourn the innocent victims, we belonged to one religion. When we stood in lines to give blood, despite our differences, we became one body. For most of us, the smoking dark holes in the towers before they fell matched the holes left by sorrow in our collective hearts. Sharing stories of American resiliency, we spoke the same language.

Two decades later, and we are arguing and tearing each other apart. Even the Jan. 6 attack by domestic violent extremists targeting the U.S. Capitol Hill, a symbol of American democracy, with the extremists calling for the hanging of the U.S. vice president, has failed to bring us together. These days, far from looking at each other as fellow Americans, we are suspicious of one another. Even someone wearing the red MAGA hat causes apprehension and fear. A new darkness, like the one we as refugees and immigrants have fled from to come here in search of safety, is clouding the once-blameless blue sky of our beautiful land. The same sun that rises every morning to light every town and city, every mountain and river in America, feels faded. As New Americans, our love and concerns for our adopted country is growing stronger simultaneously.

In my America, the gorgeous symphony that it has been, books could not possibly be banned. History can be taught without government’s approval, the way science and music are taught. Women could make health decisions having to do with their own bodies without fear of retribution. America needs our prayers. I pray for a future when schoolchildren across this magical land feel safe going to school and not be murdered in their classroom.

I might be balder and older, but I still have faith in America. My love for my adopted country gains strength as years pass by. Yes, I was born elsewhere, but home is where one is buried.

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