Take No Prisoners

Rose Marie Buccheri

Copyright 2002 by Rose Marie Buccheri


There is no escaping it, growing up in the baby boom generation was enlightening and electrifying. Life was expanding in the world around us as we grew increasingly aware of our wider communities and world views. In the spring of nineteen-sixty-six, the New York Daily News, Sunday Brooklyn Edition, published a featured article graphically highlighting my Williamsburg neighborhood.

Printed in the Colorado magazine section of the newspaper the article enlightened. I would have preferred ignorance. The article, although in the color portion of the paper, appeared in black and white photos. Black and white were more expressive of the soul and spirit of Williamsburg, enhancing subliminal messages of "slum" and "ghetto" beneath them. These neighborhood views, though well known, seemed foreign to me. It was a rude realization to my surroundings. Williamsburg was losing the war on poverty as my blinders fell away.

Middle-school years signified the beginning of self-reliance. The Space Race was upon us in the years of "The Russians are coming." "Better dead than red," was echoed by true-blue, red-blooded Americans. Then, being a "Pinko Commie Liberal" was more politically incorrect than a statement of fact. America had won the Space Race despite the Cold War with the Soviet Union, Russia. We were a determined nation. During the Bay of Pigs incident under President Kennedy, the Cuban Dictator, Fidel Castro had missiles aimed at the US. Air raid sirens sounded and school age children hid under their desks. I noticed fallout shelter signs with meaningful significance. The rectangular sign on the Lynch Street side of the armory proclaimed: "Fall Out Shelter" in black lettering, surrounded by three black triangles over a yellow background. Anything that comprised a trilogy was a Godsend. Although I lived in a slum, I still had a life and wanted to grow up. I had a chance, no Americans on U.S. soil were taken prisoners yet.

I prayed America would remain free forever. My every Mass attendance and communion was offered for our continuing freedom and for Russia's conversion. Not long afterwards, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Every television in Transfiguration School was on. I remember crying that Caroline and John had no dad, Jackie had no husband, and our nation had no leader. The impact was long lasting. No one was safe, even the President of the United States. As an American, I grieved with my nation. As a Catholic, Kennedy's loss seemed double. I felt our nation lost a great man as the Camelot years ended.

Not all prisons have bars, and there are no fall out shelters from the bombs of life, the unexpected, that come as terrorists' attacks and last a lifetime. These times would take no prisoners, the price of survival was at a premium. The Cultural Revolution and the Viet Nam war were underway. In high school I became familiar with quotas, open enrollment, anti-war protests, black power and the Black Panthers. I learned about reverse discrimination before there was a terminology for it.

Through the fiery orations of Malcolm X, and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I felt the backlash of racism's hatred. "Get Whitey!" remain the most terrifying words of my life. In college I burned my bra, not my flag. Though I didn't agree with my nation's politics, Old Glory represented far greater ideals. I had the chance to become, however humble my beginnings. I could get a college education, and create the changes I envisioned for my future. I was given the right to vote at eighteen, a first for our nation. I took that right seriously and responsibly to articulate my voice for our country's leadership. Not many nations had that going for its citizens, men and women alike. I have lived with democracy in action though my lifetime. Democracy is at work even while it is tested. We, The United States of America, have been tested in every decade. For the gifts our democratic system has allowed us, I am grateful. God Bless America for all that I have; for its ideals that withstand the tests of time.

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