There is no more US, there are only divided states of America

Oh, America.

The writer at the top of NYC's Empire State Building with two of her younger siblings (photo credit: HADASSAH COHEN)
The writer at the top of NYC's Empire State Building with two of her younger siblings
(photo credit: HADASSAH COHEN)
I remember the excitement as a child when we would travel to America from my native Italy.
It was fantastic.
We would be so happy as we packed our little bags to carry on the plane for the long trip ahead. It took a week to pack that bag.
We would be stopping in New York for a few days, then going to Florida to Walt Disney World, and then heading to Canada to visit my grandparents.
We felt as if we were leaving for a few months. I would say goodbye to my friends: “I hope I will recognize you when I come back, it will be in lo-o-o-ng time,” and my friends would all be jealous of me.
I still remember clearly that first breath of fresh air right out of JFK Airport. I would tell my mother, “Mum, America smells like a doughnut.”
I loved it.
I always felt excitement in the air in New York City. I remember on that particular trip we slept in a fancy Manhattan hotel for a few days, on a high floor with a gorgeous view. I actually asked my mother not long ago if it was real or my imagination, and she confirmed it to me.
I have these flashes of memory of sleeping on the floor with lots of pillows and blankets, spying through the thick window curtains at the amazing view.
I thought New York was the most amazing place on Earth.
If I were a city, I would probably be New York. It fits me like a glove.
“Between the Moon and New York City” plays as a soundtrack in my mind when I think of those childhood years and America, but the song leaves a bittersweet memory when I hear it now.
I have flashes of memories, walking in Manhattan trying to keep my head from falling off as I stared up at the skyscrapers and the huge advertisements for Calvin Klein, which was then just starting its insane underwear campaign: huge butts covering Time Square, gorgeous faces of up-and-coming models staring out from huge billboards.
My heart would beat faster in New York. Everything seemed larger than life, out of proportion.
I wanted to be New York, to live New York, to become New York.
I told my parents that when I got older I would be famous, and my face would be in Times Square, too.
I loved the big black policemen in their heavy-duty uniforms being so nice and kind to us, letting us see their special cars from the inside while they chewed on their famous doughnuts.
We grew up in Italy watching them on TV, so seeing them in real life was amazing.
I REMEMBER the doormen at buildings on the Upper East Side, with their big coats and top hats, opening the door for us; the sounds of the horns from Yellow taxis that continued throughout the day and night like a soundtrack that never stopped playing; the continuous flow of cars; a city filled with busy people running, happy... or so it seemed.
I didn’t know anything about Right or Left, Democrats or Republicans. I knew almost nothing other than America was the most amazing place to be.
That America of my childhood is gone now.
There is no more United States, there are only the divided states of America.
What a letdown.
In my 40s, married with children of my own, I finally discovered the truth.
As I sit comfortably in my apartment in Jerusalem, I can’t help but feel pain when thinking about my dear New York City.
The skyscrapers now seem too high and too empty, like lonely giants.
People have fled Manhattan and the place is becoming dangerous.
As for those billboards on which I wanted to see my face, I just thank God – and my mother’s whispered prayers throughout the years – that brought me a different path in life. My face is not in Times Square, but it is in a picture on a refrigerator door between my children’s drawings and a shopping list stuck with a souvenir magnet from Capri, a memento from one of our family vacations in the South of Italy.
And those big policemen eating doughnuts? Now when I think of them I hear the echoes from the news a few weeks ago, screaming, “Defund the police!”
Have we all gone mad?
Where is Stevie Wonder singing “I just called to say I love you” as I pass a cool piano bar in Manhattan?
It’s as if there’s no love left, as if America exhausted itself from the too much it had: too much good, too much food, too much fun, too much shopping, too much money, too much power – and too much emptiness.
It’s as if there is no respect left, either, for laws, for the Constitution, for authority, for the military or for the dead.
Every US dollar declares, “In God we trust,” yet it feels as if there’s no God left in America.
It’s all about us and them, Left and Right, wrong and right, truth and lies.
I want my America back, the one between the Moon and New York City. I want things to be as they were in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Home Alone. I want Macy’s windows and ice skating in Central Park.
I want to still believe I can make it one day in New York; not as a model on a billboard, but as a simple tourist without fear of expressing my views on politics or religion.
Good night, Big Apple. Take care of yourself.
The writer is from Italy and now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and five children. She heads HadassahChen Productions as a director, writer and performer. She also heads the Keren Navah Ruth Foundation in memory of her daughter, which helps families with sick children. [email protected]