Saturday, August 9, 2014

Worthy of a Dream

I was talking to one of the guys working on the house. He not only speaks English and Spanish, he is fluent in Italian. He's working alone today. The rest of the crew has the day off, but he needs the hours. His children went to the dentist this week. Most of us can relate to the dreaded dentist bill. He learned to speak and write Italian and became an Italian chef, while working in a restaurant in L.A. Today he was listening to a pop radio station that plays a lot of eighties music. He said that's how he learned to speak English back in the day, listening to our top forty stations. He works construction because he makes more money to feed and house his two young daughters, but he has a dream to one day own a restaurant, an Italian restaurant.
Because his skin is brown, his accent foreign, people rarely think to ask him about his dreams and hopes for his children. They see a "Mexican," a "Wetback," a "Beaner," an "Illegal alien." I took the time to learn his name, his story, his courage, and I'm a better person for it. Those people holding signs and yelling at children crossing our borders—children with dreams—aren't looking beyond labels. They don't see human beings in search of self-worth and in the pursuit of freedom to dream.
I fail to see how the Republicans, including former Senator and now the current Governor of Oklahoma, passed the legislation that invited these children here and then turned this into a political football with the current administration. We need secure borders, but let us not forget these are borders of our making. Suppose someone drew a line across your yard, and suddenly your family was no longer the same nationality. Texas should just be quiet. Really, “invading our country?” How quickly wars that displaced indigenous people can be erased from the social memory. 
But, politics aside—please, stop assuming every person with brown skin is here illegally. And for the love of humanity, stop assuming the woman cleaning that toilet is too inept to do anything else. Maybe she’s working her way through night school. Maybe she’s a well-respected teacher in her country, fleeing persecution for being a woman with a voice. Maybe she works a low wage job, cleaning up after the more privileged white women holding those signs and screaming at busloads of children, because someone took away her dream of a better life a long time ago. Or better yet, maybe she owns the business and works just like the rest of us to feed our families.
We make hundreds of assumptions a day, to what end? We miss so much by doing so. We miss making friends and create more enemies by doing so. A person is less likely to be a burden on society if they are invested in that society. They are more likely to cause trouble if society isn’t invested in them. The way to solve the world's problems with poverty, illiteracy, and tribal warfare (which is all war amounts to in the end—tribes of men since ancient times, clinging to dogmatic self-righteousness,) is to allow people to dream, to become their best selves. It's hard to live up to your potential, when you're told you are not worthy of a chance.
It's time we spread some empathy around. We've all faced discrimination of one kind or another, whether it be based on gender, race, sexuality, religion...wait, I can't say all, because there is privilege so profound that empathy with their fellow man is unfathomable. Anyway, some of us, many of us, know prejudice. We know that the assumptions of others often define how we are perceived. People fear what they don't see in the mirror. It's a left over instinct, from a time when a stranger in the cave was a scary proposition. We shed much of our body hair because we didn't need it to survive. It's time we shed some more of our innate human behaviors, the ones based on fears that are no longer relevant to our evolution as a species. Take away privilege, skin color, and circumstances of birth, and what do we have—a human being worthy of a dream.

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