I met a lot of people.
I met a woman in a hijab at our hotel, working the desk, and another in the halls, preparing to clean rooms.
I met another immigrant in a sandwich shop, working the register. And I met others at gas stations along the way, stocking the shelves.
I heard Mandarin in the street, on the campus of my son’s university. I heard it a lot.
When Trumpistanis talk about refusing entry to immigrants, we hear them cheer The Donald calling Mexicans “rapists” or those with hijabs “terrorists.” The press thinks they want to restrict specific types of immigrants from getting into our country, but when they chant “build the wall,” or curse Khizr Khan, I think they’re saying something else.
They’re not really saying no to specific immigrants over understandable concerns like crime and terrorism. I think they’re saying no to all immigrants, because they see the bright futures of their children being stolen before their eyes.
Then there’s the average American high school graduate himself, or herself. Those from poor families aren’t given the skills needed for success, so of course they don’t have them, but worse is how most of those from the middle class or upper middle class are spoiled beyond belief. Too many don’t take part-time jobs, treat physical, low-paid work with contempt, and expect things to be done for them. Which, of course, we do.
Look at the young people you see at the Trump rallies – fat beyond belief, many of them, arrogant, gun-toting assholes. I had one come up behind me on the road the other day, with an extra fat tailpipe so he could “roll coal” in defiance of “environmentalists.” Or their women, white trash no better than the young black women they so decry, surrounded by kids, unmarried, living with their parents or in trailer parks. Or, like those appearing on TV, paid to spout nonsense.
Not all the kids are like that. Mine certainly aren’t like that. I am certain yours aren’t like that. But too damned many are, let’s face it, and they are easy meat for the millions who study far into the night, who are drilled within an inch of their lives to get every answer right, and who have no choice but to excel. Or the millions who are chased out of their homes by war, former doctors and lawyers now happy to take any job that will keep them safe. Or the Africans who still see this as a land of opportunity, and are willing to bear any burden to seize that opportunity.
It is no surprise to me that Trumpistanis boo, jeer, and hate on someone like Khizr Khan, a gold star father in good standing, who lost the light of his life to an Iraqi IED, in a war based on lies, but still holds his Constitution close to him, in his coat pocket, and believes every word of it. It is no surprise to me that Trump is still leading, among white voters, that if this election were settled only by voters of European extraction he’d actually win the thing.
But of course he won’t. It was foreordained, long before he entered the race, that he couldn’t win it. He has no more chance than another New York businessman with no political experience did, the last time we played this game, in 1940. Trump is a Bizarro version of Wendell Willkie. Curiously he was also trying to prevent the third term of a crisis President.
They say that the tree of liberty is watered by the blood of patriots. More accurately, it is watered by the sweat of immigrants.
That is the real difference between America and most other countries. It’s what I most like about my country. Anyone can be an American. You just take a simple test, you raise your hand, you say the words and you’re one of us.
This was true for my German ancestors, but it was also true for my Irish ones, and a very curious couple, a Polish cavalry officer and an English scullery maid driven out of that country by the horror both families felt toward what their offspring had done. I was named for their daughter.
A Jewish congregation, in my mother’s home state of Rhode Island, wrote President George Washington in 1790, thanking him for making America a place of “tolerance.” Washington wrote back.
These are Washington’s words:
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
Maybe the members of Tuoro Synagogue were not given as much liberty as Washington’s own slaves were, but the spirit was there from the beginning.
That’s not true in Europe. That’s not true in Japan. There you have to be born to the privileges of full citizenship. Here it is chosen. People choose to be Americans.
Once you are an American, you’re privileged. Your kids have won the global lottery, simply by being born here. They are born with advantages people in other countries cannot dream of. And after a few generations, it’s natural that many are going to take those advantages for granted, treating comfort as birthright rather than something they must earn.
That’s when people are tempted toward the Trump side.
This has long been true, and until recently such middle-class privilege was kept in its place, by the brokers and bankers, the agents and lawyers, who peopled the golf courses of Trumpistan. But now apps have come for them, for their jobs, their careers, and their futures. Now their lives of controlling friction, and controlling other people, will no longer be passed on to their offspring as a birthright.
So it is these people, the gatekeepers, who have let loose the dogs of war. Many of them have joined the anti-immigrant, and I think anti-American, hoards now screaming their bilge through every TV set. We are fortunate they are a minority, fortunate that first-and-second generation immigrants, who see America as the gift it is, are willing, still, to stand up to them.
How long will America remain so fortunate a country?