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Annie Warmke: Longing For A Better Time In America

Longing For A Better Time In America

By Annie Warmke

There's nothing like turning on the ''telly'' and looking straight into the face of a woman GI smiling and pointing at something out of range of the camera. As the camera pulled back the image of a man with a hood over his head came into view, and he was naked.

"What is funny about that?" I asked.

Then I realized that the entire world must be watching these same horrible images of torture. What is the rest of the world thinking?

And as if that wasn't enough, Mr. Bush appeared and tried to distance himself from the photos by acting shocked. I shook my head. He takes young men and women, teaches them to kill, sends them to a strange foreign land, tells them that everyone there is evil and a "terrorist" -- and then is shocked that they don't play nice? What ever happened to "The Buck Stops Here?"

All of this latest news has made me scared and ashamed of my country's actions, especially when I heard that naming the names of dead U.S. soldiers on television by poor old Ted Koppel is being called antiwar and anti-patriotic. That spin from the White House doesn't even compute in my brain.

I needed an escape for the afternoon, so Cat and I decided that a pub lunch in Sudbury seemed an extraordinarily good idea. After we ordered our food at the bar we played 20 questions to pass the time. Just before the food arrived, I noticed an old man and woman smiling at Cat.

"So, what part of America you from?" he asked. People here love to show that they can tell an American accent from a mile off. Then folks usually follow up with some story about visiting America.

"I was stationed in 'The City of Brotherly Love' -- that's Philadelphia ya know. Served there with the Royal Navy. I was in that beautiful city when they bombed Pearl Harbor. What a time ... "

He seemed lost in reflection for a moment. Then he smiled.

"I saw Glenn Miller in Philadelphia." He smiled at Cat again. "You ever been to Philadelphia?" he asked, his eyes shining. Cat shyly shook her head.

"Well, if you ever go, give her a great big kiss for me. There is no more wonderful place in the world than Philadelphia!"

He went on to say that after he left the U.S. he married his sweetheart in '42. He patted her hand, and she gave his a squeeze. While he was serving on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea, the Germans sank his ship. He spent the rest of the war in a POW camp in Tunisia. I told him that I was heading to Tunisia the next week as a guest of their government. He seemed genuinely interested.

Then he mentioned the war in Iraq and the photos on the news.

"You know," he said after a long silence, "It's just a damn shame. ... We should expect better, but it was a different time."

There seemed nothing more to say.

I turned around to finish my food and found myself thinking of 'his' Philadelphia. He was there during a terrible, wonderful time -- when "we were all in this together" and it was good versus evil. To him, America was the best of the good. And Philadelphia had been the best of America.

I found myself longing for America to be that place of dreams, that place where anything was possible. America ought to be a place where Glenn Miller plays through the night, and the world is certain.


Annie Warmke lives in Hadleigh, England. She writes a weekly column on life in a small town for the TIMES RECORDER. Someday in the not too distant future she intends to return to live at her farm near Philo, but for the time being she is a world citizen making friends in small towns wherever she goes. You can be in touch with her at

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