My father was an immigrant

January 29 2017

My father was an immigrant. He came to America to play soccer (that he did, and that he still does). My mother and he are from two completely different worlds, but they had me, an only child who landed somewhere in the middle. Pieces of them are tucked into the pockets of me: passion and reserve, impulse and calculation, art and measurement.

In school I was ridiculed for not being the “right religion” and was publicly humiliated for referring to this same school as a Nazi School. Even then, my father and my mother taught me to be kind, to keep good humor, and to stand up for myself and for those who didn’t have the courage or ability. I have devoted my life to helping people, people who work hard and risk much to call America home. I have watched dreams met and exceeded with joy and tears, and other dreams — well, dreams that were too heavy to take flight.

I have been The Foreigner, the noticeable outsider, and have felt small cuts of blatant stares and hurtful remarks (and other injustices I won’t detail here) that add up when you are not The Majority. I can only imagine how fractional my experiences must be when compared to those who flee wars, who watch loved ones die, who don’t make their own decisions to leave their homeland but are forced — by governments, by threats, by the hope of a better life for their children — to enter unwelcoming communities.

I do not have the precise words to express how heavy my heart has been the past few days. I have watched, again as an outsider, combing Twitter for updates and news sites for photos that might portray a situation far different from the reality I fear.

I want my country to be one of opportunity, receptivity, inclusion, honesty, acceptance, communication and peace. I am grateful for all those who are standing up for what is right, who are lending their voices to those who feel silenced, and who stubbornly refuse to give in. For that’s what we must do, today and always: stubbornly refuse to give in.