Sunday, November 28, 2010

Social Engineering

Government dictated land use under the guise of sustainable development, sustainable communities, and social engineering are seemingly innocuous euphemisms. The reality is much more sinister, it is communist control of land use, agriculture, and housing.

I see in my mind's eye the grey landscape of drab and dirty concrete apartment complexes, crowded on the periphery of towns, close to polluting refineries, black smoke spewing steel factories, chemical plants, and other noxious industrial platforms.

The occupants of the small, one bedroom, one dining room, one bathroom, and one tiny kitchen apartments, had been living in villages surrounding large cities. They had been forcefully moved so that the land they had previously occupied and owned could be confiscated, controlled, and farmed by the government for the "good of the people." It was learned soon enough that the "good of the people" did not really exist, it was just an euphemism to enslave everyone to the communist party and its "caring" for the downtrodden.

A few villages escaped this social engineering because they were either too remote for practical mass agriculture or too scattered across the hills and mountains. Such was the case of my paternal grandmother's village, perched high up in the Carpathian Mountains, a rocky but rich soil. Scattered patches of land allowed the locals to grow grapes and fruits, undisturbed by the confiscatory land grab of the communist party. Farmers were able to make wine, jams, preserves, sell fresh fruit, while keeping all income. Being so isolated from the beaten path and being connected to the world by one weekly bus, made it impossible and impractical for communist revenuers to come claim their lion's share for the "good of the people."

The neighborhoods that had been developed by the government "largess" on the outskirts of towns were very poor and a sorry excuse for city living. Some did not have paved roads, running water, plumbing, or electricity. The mayor did not care about their fate although it was his job. Over time, buildings decayed from lack of maintenance, updating, painting, roofing, earthquake damage, were eventually demolished or left abandoned just like a ghetto area in the U.S.

Row houses separated by wooden fences looked respectable on the outside but were not connected to any modern conveniences and lacked bathrooms. A wooden shack, the outhouse, loomed very smelly in the back.

The apartment blocks fared a little better because they had electricity, water, sewage, and garbage pickup when the government provided them. The problem was that the government could shut them off any time it wished, without prior notification. This included water, hot water, steam heat, electricity, and garbage pickup.

People had to maintain everything, clean, and provide security. Many blocks turned into ghetto areas, best to be avoided. Some became really dilapidated especially if occupied by gypsies who stripped them down and sold all interiors for spare parts, then abandoned them. What was the law going to do? There were not enough jails for all recidivists. Besides, gypsies could come and go as they pleased, they were feared by everyone.

Before the arrival of the communists to power, people had bucolic life styles, sufficient food, homes they called their own, a small plot of land which they farmed and produced enough food on for their families and extra for the city market. Communist social engineering changed that - most became poor, needy, hungry, cold, homeless, landless, and certainly lacking their human dignity as they became totally dependent on the government for all their needs. Nobody would own much of anything, everybody had to rent from the government.

If, in your American naivete, are ever persuaded to even think that social engineering is a concept worthy of discussion, consider this - it is a communist code word for mass poverty and government dependency in perpetuity. Don't take my word for it, study history and review the same failed experiments in Cuba, formerly Iron Curtain countries of Eastern Europe, North Korea, and China, to name a few.

You can even take a short trip to Cuba to see the blight and dilapidation of formerly beautiful homes. So many inhabited buildings in Havana are in such bad shape that even Roman ruins like the Coliseum, are better preserved. These buildings that would be condemned in this country, were "socially engineered" and fundamentally destroyed by Fidel Castro's communist regime. Cubans owned homes, hotels, and land before it was confiscated through clever rhetoric, finally by force, and distributed as rental property to the "proletariat." All fell in a sorry state of disrepair and remain that way to this day.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Analogies between communism and U.S.A. today

What are the analogies between the progressives agenda today and communism? Why do we have czars in a republic? Czars are certainly elements of Russia, not the United States.
Why do we need total government control or the nanny state? Can we not make decisions for our own lives and families?
Why do we need to be told what to eat, how much to eat, and when and where to purchase our food? Why do we have to be controlled how much sugar or salt we eat? Why do we have to be taxed more if we smoke? If smoking is bad, why are most pension funds invested in tobacco companies?
Why do we need to connect our homes to the power grid? Should the government tell us how much electricity we consume and when? Should we give them control over our thermostat at times when we like to use our heat or cooling the most?
Why do we allow government to brainwash our children that spreading the wealth is good and fair? Why do we allow them to be indoctrinatedd that religion is bad, that sex before marriage is good? Do we need the government in our bedroom as well?

Happiness and Pessimism

How happy are we? Are human beings supposed to be happy all the time? Are physical pain, mental anguish, suffering, and regret part of everyday life? Is pessimism a more predominant part of who we are, or is it happiness? Can we be happy and positive all the time? Is it wrong to be a realist and a pessimist? Can a person be both without being shunned by society as a "toxic" individual? Such labels are hard to overcome once imposed on someone. We do it with children at an early age. Schools are notorious for doing so in kindergarten and even day care. If a child is a little more active thant he average one, he/she must be put on meds to control his/her hyperactivity. If a child is quiet, he must be autistic.

I remember my daughter's first grade experience at the age of 5. She was really tall for her age and very mature. Since school started in September and she was born in November, she was two months shy of the "legal age" for school. She was ready in every way but she was very shy and quiet and certainly overwhelmed by the presence of all her classmates. The impatient and unqualified teacher immediately labeled her mentally retarded and thus had to be put in a special education class. This label was placed on her after less than a day of interaction or lackthereof. My daughter was overwhelmed with everything and kept quiet the entire day. This would have earned her a lifetime of special ed classes. I took her out, enrolled her in a private school and she thrived in gifted education with a higher than average I.Q.


When I was a child, I had very few toys: a doll with a chipped face, a teal colored doll bed with a miniature comforter, and 9 piece wood puzzle blocks that formed pictures of various fairy tales if matched correctly. This forced me to be quite creative during child play and brought many neighborhood kids outdoors for improvised games of chase, hide and seek, sledding, ball playing, hop scotch, chess, and dominoes.

Poverty encouraged us to dream of faraway places, fantastical creatures, dragons, kingdoms, and mythical heroes. It did not cost us anything to dream. We were imaginative, creative, and free to wonder in the recesses of our minds that otherwise would be left untouched.

When we could find colored pencils and paper, I drew images that my mind created, unencumbered by outside influences. Clay was plentiful and I taught myself how to model it into figurines and primitive looking vessels. I was not going to win any art contest but I had so much fun. Playing with mud pies on my grandpa's farm helped shape the love of art. I never owned an art book - I admired pictures in art gallery windows and library books.

We did not have Barbies, Ken, Nintendo, PlayStation, computer games, or any electronic gadgets or games, yet we were more creative by necessity. Why did we not create such toys and games like the Americans? Because we were not allowed to be different, to express our uniqueness, we were encouraged to excel, but within the parameters of the group, of the collective.

Standing out was discouraged, bourgeois, and thus punished. A communist society by definition was a "shared," based on equality society, nobody was allowed to be better than anybody else, except for the ruling elite.

Schools made some concession to achievement by awarding book prizes at the end of the school year for good grades. It was the only glimmer of self-esteem allowed. Contrast this to the liberal educational doctrine today to give everybody a trophy, to make everyone a winner, to promote everyone, to social promotion, or risk hurting their feelings and self-esteem.

Should we fail to reward bad behavior, bad grades, and bad performance, the legal system is there to sue us at the drop of a hat. We are the most litigious society on earth and spend more on self-insurance to avoid unpleasant lawsuits. Teachers are afraid to come in direct contact with their students, counselors counsel with wide open doors, and principals use witnesses during conferences with parents.

The uniqueness that made this country great, is now discouraged and shameful, pushing children towards uniformity and communism. In communism everything is "communis," as the Latin term describes, "shared." Sharing may be a virtue in the Bible but under communism, it is a misnomer. Nobody really shares anything. There are poor people and the elites. If I demand my "share" of the pie, of the country's wealth, I am laughed at and sent to a gulag.

We were punished when we were bad, our parents were humiliated, we were humiliated, we were held back in school if our performance was not up to par, we got bad grades if we were not prepared every day, repeated the year if we had to, no social promotion there, nobody threatened to sue the school, bad behavior was not only not tolerated, but was harshly punished. We got up, dusted ourselves off, and tried harder next time. Discipline and failure were natural consequences to bad behavior and under performance.

American parents who are enablers of their children's poor performance in school and preposterous behavior in society, are responsible for overindulging their children with material possessions that are beyond the needs of a child and do not promote healthy developmental, moral, and ethical compass.

Educators catch the brunt of parental and societal displeasure for their children's poor performance. Mom and dad fail to take responsibility for the first six years of a child life that shape who they are and how they will behave and perform in society.

Parents abdicate their roles completely and expect teachers, who are often ill-prepared to teach the subject matter to which they are assigned, to also become surrogate parents who will magically change all the neglect and sometimes verbal and physical abuse children suffered in their first six years of life.

Society's flawed solution to "fixing" this problem is to waste more money on education and demand more accountability and longer work hours from teachers, when the fix would be quite simple - raise responsible and involved parents who stop spoiling their children materially while spending more time with them and supervising their homework. There is only one other country in the world that spends more money on education than we do, Luxembourg, a rich country the size of a postage stamp. And we have precious little to show for our expenditures on education and our lavish, overabundant parental material spending on our children.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What are your accomplishments worth?

As a young person, I had dreams of grandeur for various professional careers. They changed as often as the wind, with no particular rhyme or reason. I wanted to be a famous actress, a famous writer, and an exceptional doctor who could save lives through groundbreaking procedures. I entertained the idea of being an engineer with the ability to build the ultimate machine that would allow humans to travel back in time. I wanted to find a cure for cancer, to be an accomplished painter, a violin player like my cousin, and even a gypsy vendor for a day so I could sell and eat all the sunflowers I wanted. The sky was the limit, but I always returned to my favorite game, playing teacher with my childhood friends.

If you ask me if my wild dreams came true, the answer is no. Did I continue playing teacher for almost thirty years, the answer is yes. Was it really a play? It might as well have been because I enjoyed teaching so much. Time flew, springs turned into winters, scores of wonderful students kept me young, challenged me in so many ways, and gave me the purpose to leave a small imprint into their futures. As a famous person said, teachers touch the future.

It was not easy being conservative among liberal colleagues. I had a few friends I cherished and even fewer who could truly understand where I came from and what education was like under communist regimes. We were mostly collegial and pretended to like one another.

One particular teacher stood out, she was brash, entertaining, and the darling of the teacher's union. She attended most conferences that the rest of us only dreamed of and was the automatic recipient of any award that a teacher could earn in their careers. By the end of her life, she had walls of "I love myself plaques" and ribbons given by various organizations under educational auspices.

After her funeral, her children put the house up for sale and personal belongings were disposed of or sold. To my surprise, there was a large barrel outside the house, on the curb, heaving full of my former colleague's awards, diplomas, and trophies.

I realized then with sadness that we are a mere blip in educational history, immediately forgotten after we pass on even by our very own children. I shed a tear for her devotion to her students and her children, devotion that ended in a trash bin. I am glad, she did not know how little these people really cared about her effort to make them understand that knowledge is power, to bring light into the darkness of the mind.

When I retired, after having worked for twenty years for the same educational institution, the local liberal newspaper whose owners had a monopoly on all mass media, refused to print a small announcement of my retirement because my political views were known and diametrically opposed to their communist, Cuba loving, anti-American "values."

As Goethe is reputed to have said on his death bed, "Licht, mehr Licht," light more light, our duty as teachers was to brighten the minds of young and old alike. Have we succeeded? You be the judge. Personally, I still remember my middle school language and mathematics teachers. They left me with a life long love for language and for scientific reasoning. I can still see their faces, how they dressed, and their favorite expressions. They live on in my mind's eye.

I have wonderful memories of my students, our trips abroad, cultural stories, videos, and thousands of interesting and inspiring lessons and discussions we've had, but I am hard pressed to produce too many plaques and diplomas saying how wonderful of a teacher I was. They would not be worth much anyway if my children would throw them out with the garbage upon my departure from this world.

Gaming the system

I often wondered how we survived 29 years of communism. We were resilient for sure, the survival instinct kicked in and we learned quickly, as a nation, how to game the system. It was not an issue of moral ethics, it was an issue of how were we going to eat or stay warm another day.

I am also wondering about certain Americans and illegal aliens who are taught by ACORN, La Raza, the Mexican Consulate, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other like-minded liberal groups to obtain legal and illegal benefits under the loopholes of the law, enabled by many generations of democrat Congressmen who view this country as discriminatory and socially unjust and thus in need of "fundamental change" that only they can bring about, providing that the new beneficiaries of their benevolence vote democrat in perpetuity. People like me, who escaped oppressive regimes, know and recognize that these euphemisms are code words for socialism and communism. Without help from lawmakers, we had to improvise and devise our own survival plans under the radar of the Economic and Fiscal Police. Groups of Americans and illegal aliens game the system in a country where freedom still offers its legal citizens the opportunity to reach the American dream without theft.

The economic barter system based sometimes on theft became the predominant method of survival and economic exchange under communism. I say sometimes because there were citizens who never engaged in barter via theft. Their religious and moral beliefs forbade them to do so. However, most workers stole materials, finished products, or services from their employer, in this case, the communist government. It never occurred to them that they were stealing from themselves because nobody believed the ideological lies that the means of production were owned/shared in common (The Latin word "communis" means shared). People knew they only owned the clothes on their backs, dishes, and a few pieces of furniture. Because their communist daily needs were barely satisfied, workers exchanged with others various goods and services in short supply, under the radar of the Economic Police. A butcher would trade stolen meat for a case of wine, a week's worth of bread, a couple of liters of cooking oil, medicines in short supply, soap, shampoo, a doctor's more attentive care for a patient, or a couple of kilos of sugar and flour.

Farmers were more honest in their exchanges since they at least raised the animals or grew the fruits and vegetables. Some lazier and thus needier farmers resorted to stealing, selling, and/or slaughtering a neighbor's pig, cow, or sheep. If they were caught, so be it, the jail time was worth surviving a few months on the stolen meat.

Lazier farmers brings to mind the failed communist experiment at Jamestown where each family labored together for the community but some chose to labor less than others but all benefited equally from the crop. It is for this reason that the community as a whole was facing starvation. They soon realized that dividing the land into smaller plots and giving them to each family increased the incentive to work and thus the successful capitalist model was born. And they were hungry no more.

More daring thieves stole goods made of iron and sold them as recycled scrap metal, i.e., rail road tracks, metal fences, transformers, light fixtures, cemetery rails, and pretty much anything that was not nailed down, screwed too tightly, or cemented.

Gypsies took theft to new heights in their race for survival. The Rroma, the now PC term for gypsies, stole car tires, windshield wipers, rear view mirrors, metal bars from windows, trash cans, door handles, public commodes, toilette paper, and pretty much anything in stores that their huge skirts with multiple pockets could hide.

They stole electricity by connecting directly to the light poles. As soon as they were disconnected, they would re-connect. When given free apartments to take them off the cold streets and migratory wagons, they dismantled them and sold everything piece by piece, doors, appliances, commodes, sinks, light fixtures, parquet flooring, linoleum, until there was nothing else left but the bare walls, and they moved out into the courtyard where they slept around huge campfires and improvised tents.

Gaming the system also involved birthing multiple babies and becoming an honorary mother hero with a pension for life. Of course, not everybody was able to physically deliver that many babies. From the time a woman became pregnant, she stayed home pretending to be sick, on constant maternity leave. After the baby was born, mysterious illnesses plagued him/her until kindergarten. It was easy to obtain bogus baby illness certificates from doctors who barely survived themselves and relied on bribes from patients for their existence. Employers knew these certificates were fake - nobody cared, as long as they got their meager monthly pay from the government. The work ethic mantra was, "they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work."

A package of Kent cigarettes could buy a person sick with a cold or the flu three weeks of paid leave. A bar of foreign made Lux soap or a bottle of Nivea shampoo helped you see a doctor immediately as opposed to waiting weeks. A package of Chesterfield cigarettes might persuade the lab tech to do a chest X-ray the same day or a blood test in one week as opposed to months. A cassette player would assure attentive health care from your government-assigned physician for a year. These doctors, who were told where to practice medicine, how many patients they had to see daily, and how much money they could earn, were so overwhelmed that the care they provided was substandard at best. They supplemented their meager incomes with bribes all the time, Hippocratic oath not withstanding.

These cons are not unlike the Pigford Settlement in which 88,000 farmers claimed that they have been discriminated against and denied the right to farm based on their skin color, each collecting $50,000 from the federal government. This is an obvious fraud since there are only around 40,000 farmers in the U.S. I guess the argument could be made that people living under communism had no choice or opportunities to do anything else, whereas Americans are still free to pursue any American dream the honest way, starting from scratch, earning, and keeping the fruits of their labor, without expectation of "spreading the wealth around," a.k.a. welfare.

If an honest Romanian citizen tried to protest and reveal the labor dishonesty, he/she was quickly bribed, beaten, forced to shut up, or threatened by the communist syndicate or union.

There were honest people who tried to survive on their pay but they were very poor and needy, their existence quite precarious. The government did not care and it certainly did not honor the communist promise of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." They had little food, lacked modern conveniences, education, and access to basic medical care. They were depressed, abusive and abused, often alcoholics, falling through the cracks of the communist workers' "paradise."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How much is 32,000 lei worth?

My parents have worked very hard their entire lives. Every penny they could save beyond the daily expenses to survive went into a savings account towards the purchase of their own home. The ultimate dream was home ownership that few could afford before the age of retirement. Purchases were made with cash and it took that many years to build enough savings to attempt acquisition of a one or two bedroom apartment. Anything larger was considered lavish and bourgeois, frowned upon and investigated by the Economic Police. This arbitrary presidential decree, similar to an executive order here in the U.S., excluded, of course, the ruling elite and their families. They resided in and now "owned" the homes taken by government decree from their previous owners who were declared "enemies of the people," simply because they owned a larger home or more than one piece of real estate.

An urban home was a bit of a stretch since most Romanians were crowded into grey and drab concrete block apartments built in haste by the communist government, scrambling to create a socialist society on its way to communist utopia. Many such blocks were crumbling shortly after completion because the concrete had not been properly mixed or was poured in winter time in less than ideal engineering conditions. Answering to barely educated communist apparatchiks who only understood deadlines, not safety, pushed many builders to complete dwellings that were unsafe for human habitation.

Country houses were much safer, built of bricks and wood, one story homes with no indoor plumbing and wooden outhouses. Some poorer ones were made of mud bricks, offering natural cooling in summertime and warmth in wintertime from wood burning stoves.

A very strong earthquake in March of 1977 demolished scores of such apartment buildings. Many crumbled into large piles of dust and steel bars. Some residents contributed to the problem by knocking out walls in order to enlarge their meager abodes. They did not realize that it weakened the support structure of the overall building.

My parents and I were lucky - the building survived with severe damage. This one minute long earthquake, measuring over 7.2 on Richter Scale, left such large cracks in the walls that we could see the outside. Many months later, support beams in place, the building was repaired, however weakened the core may have been. We prayed and hoped that there would not be another strong earthquake any time soon.

There were always tremors, registering on the Richter Scale, it was part of life. We lived in earthquake alley. The Vrancea Mountains had a huge fault that was constantly active and heaving large plates against each other. We were used to chandeliers swaying, furniture sliding across the floors, and china and glassware breaking. Treetops will elegantly sway to the ground, sometimes snapping, as if a giant was caressing the rooftops.

As a long-time Southern resident in the U.S., if I had to choose now, I am not sure if I would pick the uncertainty of living with the possibility of earthquakes or that of tornadoes.

I remember the early evening as if it was yesterday. I was taking a shower when the first rumble hit, the noise of a thousand thundering trains approaching. My daddy was banging on the door, yelling that I should run out of the building. Everything seemed in slow motion, I was fascinated by the swaying and the cracking noise, the groans coming from the middle of the earth, staring at the walls, convinced that I was going to die, but my morbid curiosity wanted to know what my last seconds were going to be as the walls were beginning to split and door frames were coming apart.

I knew that I was not a fast runner. My chances of outrunning Mother Nature and Romanian construction were zero. We lived on the fifth floor of a building with no elevator.

I remember the weeks afterwards, having to walk past the two-story high piles of dust and steel left behind by thousands of many storied buildings that had collapsed, on my slow walk to school. It was eerie, life was going on, I could not understand how we could still have classes around so much devastation. And the smell of death! It was sad and numbing but gave us a purpose around so much sadness.

Nobody dared to stay indoors, we slept outside for weeks, under the stars, on the cold, grassy ground. Late March in Romania of 1977 was still pretty cold. Many aftershocks kept us running outside from buildings for months until the routine set in again.

After the building was repaired, the government decided that all the renters had to purchase their apartments or they had to move out. My family contemplated the possibility of homelessness as they had nowhere else to go, except vagrancy was against the law.

Our one-bedroom apartment had been arbitrarily priced at 30,000 lei. I say arbitrarily although the amount may have been directly tied to the cost per unit of the structure repairs done to the entire building after the earthquake. The government was broke and needed some way to recover expenses.

Under different conditions, I don't think anybody would have desired to purchase these basic, ugly apartments, they would have been satisfied with renting, as it was the case and still is for some Europeans. The cost of owning a home is quite out of reach for most people. I never understood why Americans think that owning a home is a right, expect, and demand vociferously from their government the right to a free home. Communism does not give anybody a home for free!

The Romanian Central Bank (C.E.C.) put a hold on my parents' 32,000 lei savings account as future payment for the 30,000 lei apartment. The purchase date was set for 1989, eleven years later! Communists were never in a hurry to do anything, the bureaucracy was too cumbersome - phones and TV service took fourteen years, buying a car ten years, there were endless lists for every purchase and service. Prompt service with a smile was not part of the communist vocabulary.

My daddy passed away in May 1989, my mom defected to the U.S., and a revolution took place that replaced and executed the communist dictator Ceausescu in December 1989. Our apartment was never purchased and the money remained in escrow, controlled by the new government.

The newly installed government had no idea how to run a capitalist economy based on supply and demand, all they knew was communist economics based on the rotten ideas of Karl Marx, an indolent moocher who hated manual labor and chose to come up with ideas to confiscate wealth from others and spread it around in order to survive. He needed Frederich Engels, the son of a successful Prussian businessman, to subsidize his laziness and lack of desire to provide for his family. Karl Marx' wife and children went often hungry and cold, on a diet consisting of bread and potatoes.

As the newly appointed and then elected government began to print money out of control, without any backing by goods and services, the money supply became so large, there was too much money chasing too few goods. Inflation set in, followed by hyperinflation. My parents' 32,000 lei could now either purchase three loaves of bread or two pounds of meat.

When an old house was demolished recently to make room for a parking lot, the construction crew found a buried "damigeana," a very large, bottle shaped, glass container in a straw braided cage, filled with Ceausescu money, almost one million lei. Under different circumstances, such a vessel would be used for home-made moonshine. Apparently, the owners of the house had buried the treasure for safe-keeping. This one million lei was now worthless, as the transition to a new devalued currency had been made. It was a fortune under Ceausescu, it was now worth something only to numismatic collectors.

My parents worked very hard to save 32,000 lei to buy their dream home. This worthless dream is now accumulating interest in a bank somewhere in Romania, an account that nobody can claim or cash in.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How often do you visit Romania?

I used to be ashamed and frustrated when people asked me how often I visited my relatives in Romania. Perfect strangers, friends, and acquaintances alike were prying into the most intimate details of my life which I did not have time do disclose in one sentence or two nor did I wish to discuss in those moments. I did not want to be rude, but, no matter how I answered, people were not satisfied or comfortable. "I'd rather not say," became my standard answer instead of launching into a lengthy explanation that was none of their business.

Should I have told them how pained I was at the thought of having to return to the misery that I had escaped? To them it seemed like a fun vacation to trek across the globe for 24 hours in a very cramped airplane, sleep in airports, take taxis and buses before I could even remotely reach a place where some of my relatives lived.

Was it fun to spend $2,000 on the flight alone, to forcefully exchange $30/day for the duration of my stay, whether I was going to spend that much or not? Was it fun to do without a shower or bath for days on end? Not knowing where my next meal was going to be? Was it fun worrying about my safety? Worrying about getting sick and being unable to receive proper treatment or medicine? Thirty dollars was a lot of money in Romania of the late 1970s. Was it fun to spend so much money I could ill afford in order to be used, harassed, and abused by the authorities for the duration of my visit?

Should I have told my questioners that I was a poor student and did not have that kind of money? I wanted to see my parents, my relatives more than anything in the world, but it was more than I spent on rent and food in a year! I felt poor, wretched, inadequate, and alone. Should I have told them that my children came first, they had to eat and needed a safe and clean place to call home before I satisfied my longing to see my birthplace and my relatives?

Often times I was too ill to travel. Twenty-four hours is a long way to go to reach my destination, with many stopovers and plane changes. When my dad passed away, I was unable to attend his funeral - I was in traction at the hospital from a ruptured disk. How do you explain the mental anguish and the physical pain? How can people possibly understand?

Now that I have more time and money to travel, I don't have many immediate relatives who are still alive. They have succumbed to communist abuse, neglect, or to the hard life induced by years and years of communist rule and micro-mismanagement of their lives and of the economy. The nanny state with its rationing of everything killed them all - from cradle to grave, was the communist mantra.

Things have changed to a certain degree, the economy is chugging on the path to capitalism, but poor people's lives, which is most of the population, have not. Only the former communist elites have the money and know-how to game the system in order to thrive in the post European Union economy.

A large chunk of the labor force moved to greener pastures to find employment, over 11% of the population - Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, United Kingdom, to name a few. They left their children in the care of elderly people who were themselves in need of care. Even gypsies took off to establish theft ghettos in EU countries that were so politically correct, they would be able to game the system and steal to their hearts' content without fear of deportation or retribution. After all, they are EU citizens.

My good friend Flor travels often to Romania on business and I hear about the misery and poverty that still exists, 21 years after the fall of communism! The state of disrepair is incredible, factories have been sold off piece by piece, or are rusting in the polluted air. Mountains of garbage are not being picked up, while wild dogs are allowed to run in packs and terrorize the citizens. Nobody seems to be in charge anymore. Political corruption, theft, and dishonor are the accepted norm. The justice system runs on bribes, the police is corrupt, the banking system is abusive, and the wolves are running the flock of sheeple. Nobody seems to manufacture anything anymore. Gypsies dismatle railroad tracks and sell them for scrap metal. How desperate must one be to try to take apart transformers to make an easy euro, electrocuting themselves in the process? Everything has been sold off to foreign countries. Sounds familiar?

I would like to take my adult children and my husband someday to show them where I grew up, went to school, where I came from. This is my home now, I've lived in America much longer than I've lived in Romania. Yes, my roots were there but home is where the hearth is and that happens to be Virginia. I pledged allegiance to the United States and I intend to fight for its survival, for my home, and my family's future.

Hopefully, sooner than later, we can all travel to Romania and lay a wreath at my father's tomb, my grandparents' memorial, and my aunts and uncles who have passed away. God rest their souls, they were great patriots who gave their all to their country!