I have been working on this post for quite some time, I just can’t seem to get it finished. But on the week that we celebrate being Americans and all that it stands for, I am releasing it anyways. I hope that it makes you think about those around you who may not be natural born citizens or even those that are but are of a different race than you are.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to be an immigrant now, whether from Mexico, South America or even Europe and the Far East. Lets ignore the huge problem that America seems to have with people of the Muslim faith and those from Arab countries for now.
I was at a store the other day where a Latino couple and their two children were purchasing some things, home products, toothpaste, toilet paper and the like, trivial things really. The couple were discussing their purchases, I can only assume that’s what they were talking about, they were speaking Spanish and my Spanish is not so good. They were still a few people back in line so their conversation wasn’t holding anyone up or slowing things down in the least. I noticed the people around me.
The stares that these people were receiving were cutting, like the wind on a January morning. The lack of respect that others had for them, they were lesser people, they weren’t good enough to be in that line. They didn’t deserve to buy the things we were all buying at that store. I was ashamed of my countrymen. I was ashamed to say that I was American in that small moment.
I love America, the things we take for granted in this country are amazing, the things we do cherish are even more breathtaking. I can sit here and write this without the fear of someone coming to attack me or my words. I can travel about the country without regard for where I’m from. The women of this country are (at least in principle) treated on the same level as men, I realize there are still disparities here, but for the sake of argument they are at least similar. We can freely choose our leaders and in fact, have the right and privilege to question them both in their personal character and in their ability to make smart decisions on behalf of and for the entire country. There has been a saying in my head the last few days, “You don’t even know what you don’t know.”
People in this country have their problems, most of it is centered around money and other resources to make our lives a little better or easier. What I think most people don’t know is that in places all over the world, money or other material things aren’t even a thought. Getting through the next day with enough food, water and other basic necessities is more critical than having the latest X-Box game. “You don’t even know what you don’t know.” We have things that others cannot even fathom while they have problems that we cannot being to comprehend.
People who come to this country, either legally or illegally are trying to attain a life that we don’t realize we have. A man once shared a story with me about why he came here. He was well educated at a top Latin American University in computers. He was working for a large computer company and making decent money, not rich, but at least comfortable. He had a friend who was here, no education and no real training who made 5 times as much doing simple labor. This was an easy choice, coming here would allow him to support his family much better and give his children the opportunity for an education that he could only dream of growing up. Why wouldn’t you want to come here?
Sure the immigration system in this country is completely messed up. No matter what side of the aisle you come from, its clear that things need to change. Reforms must be made and the process must be streamlined, immigration costs money and we as taxpayers will ultimately pay for a sloppy system. I will keep my explicit opinions about immigration silent for now, but I think we should all take a stand and demand reforms.
Seeing a person of different race, particularly those who do not speak English well should not make you think that they are lesser than you. In the movie A Time to Kill, Matthew McConaughey tells the horrific story of a child being sexually assaulted and at the end he says, “Now imagine if she were white.” The jury is visibly moved by the story and when he speaks those words it’s clear that all of them were picturing an African-American girl being attacked. A clear insight to our prejudices I think.
I ask all of my readers to consider that anecdote when they consider people around them who may or may not speak English well. What if the person beside you who looks like they could be from Piedmont, North Dakota suddenly starts speaking in French, German, or Gaelic? Would you think less of them, would you think they were not good enough to purchase toilet paper and shampoo at Wal-Mart on a Saturday evening? Of course not, they why do many of us think that a Mexican-American speaking Spanish should not be allowed to do the same?
Many people believe that illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans who want to work, I think otherwise. The welfare system is packed full of people who would rather collect checks and benefits each month than find a job that they consider beneath them. If I were unemployed and had a family to take care of, I would be out everyday working as hard as possible at any job that I could find, from cleaning toilets to flipping burgers. No job is beneath you when you have no job at all. Collecting benefits and complaining that you can’t find a job that is at your level is a cop out, sure some jobs may not pay glamorous wages, I’m sure some can’t even support a family, get two jobs. Make the sacrifice to make yourself better. Take the assistance if you need it, that’s why it’s there but don’t sit around all day doing nothing, collecting welfare and then complain that someone from another country took your job away. Most likely, you wouldn’t do that job anyway.
Farming is hard work. Lots of sweat and muscle power go into a good crop. You must prepare, plant and harvest a field efficiently in order to make a living at it. Harvesting is extremely critical to fetching top dollar for your crops, too early and it won’t ripen properly, too late and it’ll rot, either in the field or before it gets to market. Many Mexican workers work the fields of this country diligently providing the food we eat, they work long, incredibly strenuous hours for what we would consider not much pay. They do this not because they want to feed their WASP neighbors well, but because they want to provide a better life for their families. Isn’t that why we all work, to provide for our families and give them more than we had?
This is a very dear subject to me, I know people and have heard many of their stories. While they may seem tragic to some, I see them as heroic. These men and women are risking their lives and maybe even that of their families all for a small chance at living a better life than those who came before them.
I can’t imagine seeing someone like that and thinking they are less than me. I wish others around me would do the same. What do you think of immigration, not just the policies on immigration but how has it affected you?