|I have loved America my whole life
– despite the scorn and ridicule I have faced for
doing so. I spent many years on the university
campus, you see.
I was born in Moscow in 1966.
From my first moment of birth, I existed in an
atmosphere of terror. This was not because I was
abused by my parents. I swam in their love. But Mom
and Dad were dissidents in the Soviet Union and they
waited for a knock at the door at any moment. They
knew that the KGB could come anytime and take them
away. And what would happen to me, my brother, and
Even though I was a child, the fear and
hysterical paranoia that Soviet totalitarianism
instilled in me, and in my family, has remained
ingrained in me till this day.
There was a KGB operation in process to arrest my
father, but Dad took a risk and applied for a visa
to get out of the Soviet Union. That act alone could
have landed him in a psychiatric hospital. Till this
day, I am convinced that one of our guardian angels
was working overtime. We were allowed out.
I remember how, as we were planning our
departure, my older brother, Grisha, assured me that
we were on our way to a paradise – America. He was
nine years old and I was five. His description of
America was something that only dreams were made of.
He assured me that it was filled with toys and
We lived in Rome and Milan for a while. That was
paradise already, because I received toys and
candies that I had never before laid eyes on. I
could even eat as many bananas as I wanted to.
After four months, we arrived in New York City.
Grisha was right. I will never forget my first
experience in the department stores. Throughout my
childhood, I had to improvise with large spoons in
order to pretend they were rifles. Now, my jaw
dropped open for hours at a time as I stared in awe
at the infinite number of toy rifles available to
The impact of freedom, as well as of the new
standard of living, left an indelible impression on
my soul. I will never forget how ecstatic my parents
were to get access to the books that they had
dreamed of all of their lives, and how they now had
the time to read them. They were liberated, after
all, from standing for hours in long lines just to
feed their children. Dad could also now publicly
speak out in defense of Soviet citizens who were
languishing in the Gulag and in psychiatric
hospitals for their political and religious beliefs.
And he could do so without fear.
It was a miracle. It was America.
And then, I gradually began to notice something
very bizarre and frightening. There were certain
people, from the universities, who reprimanded my
father at our dinner table and told him that America
was the most terrible place in the world. They were
like aliens to me, and they left a bitter taste in
my mouth and anger in my heart. It was personal.
Looking back now, I understand that these were
members of the counterculture and the anti-war
demonstrators of that time. As a child, I hated
I still hate their guts.
I remember when we first moved to Halifax, Nova
Scotia, we ran into something as repulsive and
putrid as the KGB. My father had come to teach at
Dalhousie University. At one of our first social
gatherings, a woman professor said to my parents:
"Oh yes, we have a great department. Edgar
Friedenberg teaches here. He is American but
American but very good? I remember how my
parents were horrified when they came home that
night. My father remarked that that was how Russians
talked about Jews in Russia. Mom and Dad were soon
to learn that Canadian anti-Americanism was a
mutated form of Russian anti-Semitism.
I love America. America gave my family its first
real safe haven from hell. It protected the free
world from the cannibalistic system that murdered
and bestialized millions of my people.
In this world, where so many people trample and
spit on the American flag, and, like the Islamic
fanatics, even relish burning it, I will say this:
give me an American flag and I will bow in front of
And I will kiss it.