Friday, November 21, 2014

Not Just Decoration

My home is decorated with my family.

 In fact, I try to make sure their photos are in every room, so you can't miss them.

It's important to me that both you and I know, and remember,
where I come from.

Because although I was born here, my great grandparents, my grandparents and my dad were not. 

So when you see me, and I am not brown or dirty or unable to speak English clearly, you may get the impression that I'm one of "us", not one of "them".

But that hand holding my handsome husband back when he was a beautiful baby is an immigrant hand. His parents were not born here. He is one of "us" but they are one of "them". The man sitting beside me here as I take my first steps is my dad, an immigrant, a "them".

The smiling silver-haired gentleman in the picture here, with my lovely grandmother, was also a "them", didn't speak a lick of English (except to curse you out if you beat him at cards). 

And these are my children. I couldn't have these - 

looking all American and fabulous - without those who came before. They were brown and dirty and did not speak English. And they worked wicked jobs and tore their skin in cold and muck so that my children could be treated with a softness in life my grandfather only dreamed about. They were beaten down in deed and in word, hurt and cold and undeterred. And with all that, they had the bitter dignity of calling themselves American, so that I could, so that my children could.

I believe in the rule of law, and I am loathe to see it trampled for any reason. Where the law fails, where it has failed many times and the weak and meek have failed to step forward to make a change, some must come forward to light the fire. We all know this, which is why when we see someone being robbed we shout and rush forward to help. There's a crime being committed, after all. But when we see someone tending to a neighbor's garden, we smile and wave and walk on. We buy our produce without pause, we lean back when the young man comes to bus our table, we tip the man who comes to our door with take-out, many of us buy elotes from a cart outside our child's baseball game. Have you ever called the police to report the undocumented housekeeper who tends to your hotel room?

The weak Republicans and meek Democrats who have had the power of legislation in their hands for generations, and who will keep it long after this President has become a dusty page in a book no one reads, have a responsibility they have failed to meet. The hour has long gone when it was time to do something to address the impotence of our current immigration system. Pomp and bluster no longer entertain. Action is the call of the day. 

Hush your hypocrisy lest you shame the ancestry that offered you the very right you have to dishonor. Self-awareness is your gift, if any can repay. When you step into the arena, fresh with your American hair, your American clothes, clean with your American soap and healthy with your American food, upheld by your American good fortune, remember who you are. Be thankful and lend your hand to the next. That is what it means to be an American. 

Patriotism, like a photo, is not just for decoration.

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