LETTER: What I learned as a Greenwich Patriot

Submitted by Svetlana Wasserman, Greenwich

In the 1970’s my family and I fled the oppression of the Soviet Union and were welcomed as refugees to the United States. I have a great deal of gratitude and love for this country that gave us a second chance. And so, as a freedom-loving American, I was eager to learn more about a group called the “Greenwich Patriots” and signed up for their newsletter.

When I think of patriotism, the first thing that comes to mind is sacrifice. Freedom is not free. The Greatest Generation did this, leaving their homes and jobs to fight a war on another continent to protect other democracies.Those who stayed behind sacrificed too. Meat and sugar were rationed, driving on Sundays was all but forbidden, and curfews were imposed. 

And so, I was quite surprised by the letters in my inbox from the “Greenwich Patriots.” In the midst of the COVID pandemic which killed more than twice as many Americans as WWII, as our nation’s health agencies beseeched people to quarantine, wear masks, and get vaccinated to protect fellow Americans, the Greenwich Patriots grumbled about the inconvenience of “medical tyrants” asking us to follow these life-saving practices. The “Patriots” attack Greenwich Hospital, our Town government and our schools for offering or encouraging the vaccine.

Patriotism also means protecting our personal freedom to live the lives we choose as long as our actions do not harm others. Our constitution mandates a separation of church and state. Here too I was shocked to hear my Greenwich Patriots celebrate the Supreme Court forcing its religious values on women in the overturn of Roe. What could be more over-reaching than the government forcing women into childbirth? I also can’t understand their constant attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. Doesn’t freedom mean being able to identify as whatever you want to be? 

And while my Greenwich Patriots celebrated “those who value human life” in the overturn of Roe, they showed a callous disregard for human life by daily posting discredited medical advice claiming that masks and the Covid vaccine will kill you but Ivermectin and natural remedies will save you. On several occasions they promoted COVID medical forums with State Rep. Kimberly Fiorello featuring non-specialist doctors who had been rebuked by their former peers. Where is the love of life while dispensing life-threatening medical advice?

Unbiased education is something I value as a patriot. In the Soviet Union we were taught only what the State wanted us to think about our country. That is not education. That is propaganda. And so I was distressed that our Greenwich Patriots are urging the same thing for our education system. They fear that teaching children about the thornier parts of our history–our treatment of Native Americans, Black Americans and immigrants, or teaching about the contributions of these Americans–will lead to guilt and mental illness. 

Here’s what I have learned about my involvement with the Greenwich Patriots. Patriotism is not what you say. Patriotism is what you do to help your fellow Americans.