Mark has asked if I could post a farewell message for him. We closed on his mother’s house on Wednesday and he has left for Kenya:
”As my plane took off from Kennedy this evening, it occurred to me that all that my family has left in the United States is the bones of our ancestors—my father in Massachusetts and my mother’s family in assorted grave yards in South Carolina. On Monday, my mother left the United States for Israel, ending her family’s centuries-long ties to this country, which included soldiers who fought in the American Revolution, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War and two world wars—an unusual legacy in a Jewish family. My mother’s family included the first Jews at the Citadel and VMI. My father came to the United States in 1940. He had gone AWOL as an officer from the Soviet army to pluck his family out of the path of the Nazis, moved them to relative safety in Palestine, worked on a ship as a steam fitter to get to New York. In December of 1941, he put on his Russian Cav. uniform with his crazy hat and big boots and proudly presented himself at the War Department in Washington to volunteer to fight the Germans. He was rejected on the grounds that he was “probably a communist.” My father bristled. He, Alexander Nikolai Petrovich-Dragov, third generation cav, Royalist, fluent in Russian, English and French, being called a communist by, of all people, the Roosevelt Administration? To the end of his life, he always referred to FDR as “that Cossack.” Near the end of his life, the Department of Defense issued an apology, and, also, the Russians issued my dad leave papers, dated 1938, detaching him for the purposes of going to rescue his family. My parents insisted that every member of the family serve in the military—they felt it was an obligation particularly of every immigrant. We have a picture taken right before my father died of the family, me in my U.S. Army uniform, my dad in that old Russian Cav. outfit still with the boots and hat, my siblings, nephews and nieces in the uniform of the Israeli Defense Forces. My father loved that picture.
On Tuesday, I cleaned out the house. On Wednesday we closed on the sale to a young family with children. The house and this country have been good to my family. I hope we have given back. I guess the United States is not my problem any more, even though I still have my citizenship and even though I am clearly viewed as an American abroad. I clearly don’t look like a native Kenyan. But I do worry about the United States. It does seem to me since 2001 that the United States has built a moat around itself, that it peers out at the world through arrow slits in high walls, that it has left the world community, that it feels besieged without recognizing that no one lurks outside the gates. I don’t see American tourists abroad. I do see a lot of American ex pats like myself, making it seem that America’s greatest export in recent years has been its class of talented, highly educated, entrepreneurial,l executive-type citizens who don’t feel valued or appreciated in the States. I see far more optimism in Americans overseas than I see in America. I see Americans frustrated that those back in the states don’t engage in the world, don’t even understand the world, don’t see how the world is changing. I don’t see a lot of respect for the American government abroad, nor a lot of respect for the American military. I see that the United States is viewed as a rogue elephant with drones, not a country of high moral values. I see a lot of disappointment that America’s first internationalist president seems to be more comfortable with the Chinese model than the Malyasian model and, if you don’t know the difference, I’ve made my point.
I’ve enjoyed chatting with all of you during my return travels to visit with my mother. I have no immediate plans to return now that we have moved her to Israel, although I suppose I can pop in from time to time from afar; we do have the internet in Kenya. I wish you all the best, Happy New Year. Mark ”