Somos todos los Inmigrantes

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Buenos días de mi oficina a principios de una ruptura de Acción de gracias (Dzień dobry z mojego biura na początku przerwy Dziękczynienia or صباح الخير من مكتبي في بداية عطلة عيد الشكر، or Bonjour de mon bureau au départ d’une pause de Thanksgiving,),

I realize this is quite the salutation for a beginning of a post, but these are languages that some of my students speak as a native or first language, but they are, with the exception of one, American citizens. I would also note that they are outstanding students, fluent in English for those who want to argue such issues, and also fine human beings. In the last weeks, and longer, and now after a decision for no indictment in Ferguson, Missouri, politics and racial tensions seem to be the order of the day, which is even more ironic as we pause to celebrate our status as immigrants. Think about it for just a moment, the pilgrims were immigrants in a new land and at least according to tradition (and yes, historically), without the help of the native population would have probably been wiped out in the harshness of the winter, a season and event for which they were woefully unprepared. Yes, I understand that many people can trace their relatives back for generations on this continent, but at some point your relatives were from another place, coming to the shores of this continent hoping to achieve something they could not. Whatever that reason was, they believed that coming to this land provided opportunity. I should note that this blog will illustrate my own particular political bias, and for that I can only say, it is my opinion and mine alone, but it is what I believe and feel in my heart. I offer it as a way to cause those who read to ponder. It is what I try to do in most of my postings.

Since before President Obama was elected, he has been pretty open about his position on the question of immigration in this country. In fact, even George W. Bush pushed for immigration reform while president and seemed to have a bi-partisan group that was willing to push that forward. As recently as 2012, the Republicans, themselves, noted that something should be done and it was time to work together. I am well aware of the arguments about the border or issues of amnesty, but all of those things aside, it is time that the Congress get beyond their incessant arguing and actually accomplish something. It is for those reasons, in my opinion, that President Obama has issued the executive order he has. I will get into the specifics and my thoughts about that in a moment. However, the fact that the Congress has tossed this political football around for a decade and done little to nothing (please note I have not mentioned a party here, but I have noted the Congress in it entirety.) is what has prompted the President to finally act. More importantly, the action taken neither grants citizenship nor amnesty. It is a stop-gap, which, in my opinion, offers the Congress time to act on one hand, while offered an opportunity to hard working people who want to be productive citizens of the country. It also keeps families together. That is not a political thing; that is a humanitarian thing. It is an ethical thing. It is simply what each of us might hope for ourselves. I would challenge any person whose family member was being deported to argue that they would not hope for such a protection, even if that is a temporary option.

So, at this point, I am arguing two things. First, if the Congress had merely acted with some sense of decency and with some modicum of intelligence, there would have been no need for an executive order. Second, the executive order is not a be-all, end-all. It is merely to give the Congress more time to finally do something for which they get paid a pretty good salary and benefits (don’t even want to go down that road). In the meanwhile, people who are working and trying to do something helpful and support their families have a chance to merely keep on doing it. Again, I understand that they came here “illegally”. The executive order notes that this applies to people who have been here five years or longer. In addition, I know that many of the jobs that these hopeful people are doing are the very jobs that many citizens refuse to do, saying they do not pay enough, or that they are too good to do. That is another place I do not really want to walk down at the moment. There are too many citizens who believe they are entitled to something because they are a citizen or because they went to college or . . . you fill in the blank . . . . oops, I am not done and did not mean to publish, but now I will have to write faster.

I took some time away so if you have read and missed what follows, I am sorry. I went to the Fog and Flame (a local coffee shop) and met with Melissa (a different one than the surrogate) and her daughter and had a nice chance to catch up. Following that I got some yard winterization done as well as put the Harley into winter storage. I got a snowblower purchased and got a couple of other things ready for our imminent snowstorm. Then Lee, Judy, and I met one of my faculty colleagues for dinner. Now I am back home and we are settling in, but I am also working to finish this post.

Throughout the day I have listened to a variety of people’s take on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, the other topic I noted in the beginning of this post. I am reminded of some of the times I have previously posted about feeling marginalized. Not that I have felt that marginalized and that indeed, as I have been told rather unabashedly, I do fall into the position of “privileged”. It is true; as a male, as a caucasian, as a citizen, as an employed professional, as a person with a pension and health benefits, and the list could go on. I get up each morning and I do not really worry about what the majority of people think when they see me. I was not in Ferguson and I do not know all the facts of the case, but who actually does? The police officer at the center of the controversy probably knows better than anyone else, but does he even realize everything at this point? What I do know from listening to and observing many of my students, particularly those who are either ethnically diverse, economically challenged or educationally underprepared. It is easy to see when they feel uncomfortable or they believe they are deemed unworthy or not as good. There are so many messages, unintentional or not, that create situations where people feel less than what they should. I often say that I do not wake up feeling like . . .  and again you can fill in the blank. I have marveled as I have read comments on Facebook or other social networking sites some of my students’ (and former students’) responses. I have also been gratified by their willingness to state some pretty insightful responses to the sad state of affairs, not only in the riotous responses, but also in their consideration of the larger issues at the center of this tragedy. I am a firm believer that violence begets violence. I have seen this reality throughout my life; it does not matter if it is between two individuals and interpersonally or if it is in a larger interactive situation and as such it spills into a larger societal incident. The lack of appreciation for the other has a number of causes, but fundamentally I believe that inadequacy is due to fear of the unknown. It is because of narrow mindedness and an unwillingness to consider our differences as an opportunity for growth versus a basis for disagreement.

Again, I think both the issue of immigration and the response to the incident in Ferguson are indicative of our unwillingness to care unconditionally; it is indicative of our selfishness and fear; it is indicative of our bias and our failure to remember our own origins. While I have generally been a pretty accepting and open person, this past year has been an experience for me. It has pushed me to consider the other. Because of the amazing opportunity I had to be part of a Dominican family, I have learned first hand what it is to be a citizen, but watch and listen to their struggles to be seen as more than Hispanic. I should note that the following  is my interpretation of their experience based on my observation and conversation. As citizens they are completely cognizant of what that means and the opportunity it has provided (some of the family has been naturalized and some of the family was born here). They understand completely both why they came to the United States and what they have accomplished in that move. I am reminded of how much they have taught me about the importance of family, the importance of giving to those around them, and the importance of taking their role as a citizen seriously. I have learned more than I can ever put into words from the opportunity they have afforded me and I know I am a more thoughtful person because of that.

I know the question or statement Melissa posited to me the first night we did something together rings as true now as it did that February night. She said appropriately, “I do not always understand America.” My response then, while her statement caught me a bit off guard, was “Neither do I. There are some things that are not very logical.” Now more than ever, as I watch our pitiful, but elected, Congress threaten impeachment, legal action, or defunding because the President made them accountable for their inaction, or as it seems we are back in 1968 and the riots of that time as I listen to the response in Ferguson, I am forced to admit that the country I love is full of a lot of ridiculous people. I hear it on a daily basis. I find myself considering the words of John Lennon’s song, “Imagine”. “Nothing to kill or die for . . . . imagine all the people living life in peace . . . . you may say I’m a dreamer”. I can only hold on to such a dream because where we are both individually and societally is painfully sad. That is not to say we cannot make progress, but it means we must make it a priority. We must accept and believe that each person has value and worth (and that potential has its place). Well, I think I will call it quits for the moment. I pray that we can find healing to manage our hatred; I pray that we can find justice for a town and a nation when too many misunderstand or misinterpret the meaning of the word. I pray that we can finally create a society where each person is valued and cared for.

Happy Thanksgiving and remember we are all immigrants.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

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