What I call healthy democratic debate some call controversy and conflict.
People are polarized and incensed over the nameless, faceless commodity known as refugees.
Some people need to look into these faces. I see my wife, my sister, my son, my daughter. These people are somebody, and they are somebody to someone else.
If you sat on a bench next to them, would you tell them to their faces?
Here I live in the land of liberty and plenty, the richest country in the world. In my big, warm house, driving my big shiny car to the huge supermarket to buy whatever I want.
But you can’t come along. Oh, sure, I know my brother-in-law’s sister’s husband is Iraqi-American. Sworn in as a citizen the year before they married in 1982, when no one knew anything about Iraq. Yes, one of my pals at work was a Greek citizen until the age of five. Now he’s American, same as me.
My grandfather? Well, do you mean the Irish one or the Italian one? Technically two Irishmen and an Italian, since my mother’s dad abandoned the family.
My wife’s family? Yes, we go every year on memorial day to place flowers at the graves of Sina and Olaf and Waldemar. They dropped an “i” and one “l” when they changed their names to “Nelson”. Born in Sweden, Sina Kristina wanted a more Americanized name. Or maybe she didn’t. Maybe the folks at Ellis Island spelled it that way when they wrote it down, and the Neillson family was renamed henceforth.
My son-in-law? They’re mostly of German descent, but who can tell now? My daughter-in-law’s family was all English, but her first marriage brought me a granddaughter with an Italian last name, and Julie is now “honorary Irish” with her married name taken from my son.
My friend Mohammed Zhabzavari, an Iranian, gave me one of the funniest real-life stories about language I retell often. He was a student, and worked with me selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. The hours were flexible and fit around school, where he studied engineering when he wasn’t home with his wife and kids.
My friend Cecil was from Barbados. We worked together at the fabric mill, and he drove a ’73 Nova I admired. He left his wife and kids behind on the home island to come to America and work. With his smooth island accent he would tell us of the rich life he and his family would have. He just needed to work five years or so to save $10,000, worth ten times that at home.
Mishu Yarkony? How I loved that man, running a hotel in our home town. He reminded me of my grandfather. Everyone in our family worked for his family. I did some electrical and communications work for the hotel. My wife and daughters worked in the bath houses. Sons were bellhops. I loved to listen to his accent. Every now and then his shirt sleeve would pull back as he reached out with his left hand. A lump would form in my throat every time I saw the serial number tattooed on his forearm.
The Buddha said to his monks “Go out and walk the earth for the good of many. Out of compassion, for the happiness and benefit of gods and men.”
Notice Buddha did not say “if it’s convenient for you.”.
Generate the wave.