By Beth David
Sometimes I wonder if Americans even know what America is supposed to be about. I think of my grandparents, so full of the promise of a place that allowed you to live according to your own hard work.
We call it the Rule of Law. In practical terms, it simply means that you get to live and work where you want. If you’re good at something, you can get a job that utilizes that talent. One of my grandfathers had strong arms, he worked a lot of hard labor jobs. My other grandfather had a talent for art. He actually painted wording on trucks for awhile. He couldn’t read a word of English. I asked him how he did it. He said his friend wrote it out on a piece of paper and he would copy it onto the truck from that.
The promise of America is that you work and decide where you want to live according to what you like, what you want, what you can afford to pay for, not what your religion is.
No one is supposed to say you can’t live in a certain neighborhood because you are not Christian, or because you are Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, or Black, or gay or married or single or….anything.
You like the apartment or the house or condo? You have the wherewithal to pay for it? Then you can live there.
I’m sure my grandparents faced some discrimination. They had such thick accents, I can’t imagine that someone didn’t say something fresh to them along the way. But, overall, they were allowed to live their lives, and we are too.
But, hey, they were from Lebanon. That was Syria back then. Holy SHIT! I’m a freakin’ Syrian? I’m of Syrian descent? OH NO!!!!
Oh yes, I am. And most of you know it by now. (Except, we are really Lebanese, okay? I mean, there is a difference, y’know?)
All four of my grandparents were hard-working immigrants, with very little education, who came here for a better life for their descendants.
And, oh, if they could see us now. We are wonderful. We are fabulous (yes, I used that word on purpose). We are completely fulfilling the dream of our original generation.
We are teachers, medical professionals, lawyers, laborers in every profession (except plumbing….we don’t have a plumber for some reason), writers, caregivers, and we are adding to the list with every single year as our young ones enter the work force.
One of my friends likes to joke about how I would always say, “I have a cousin who does that.”
The Cousinry. That’s what I call us.
And we are truly wonderful.
How dare anyone suggest that we are somehow less American because we did not come from the Anglo-Europeans, because we have only been in this country a mere 100 years and not since the original Pilgrims; because, dare I say it, we are not quite white enough. We have that Middle Eastern pigment y’know. Stands out in certain crowds. Check that passport, make sure it’s legit.
This crime in Orlando (and it is a crime, the crime of murder) was perpetrated against gays on Latino night.
Anyone who does not get the connection to the political rhetoric of the day is just being stubborn.
When you try to say it was “Islamic Terrorism,” and not a hate crime against gays, you are trying at once to elevate it to a status that is bigger (or better?) than just those nasty gays getting slaughtered, and, at the same time, minimizing the harm done to a specific community.
But why does it have to be one or the other? Why is it so hard to believe that a messed up, angry Omar Mateen had more than one motive?
Do not minimize or try to deflect that this was a gay bar holding a planned Latin Night.
Yes, he clearly had some radical Islamic hate on his mind. But he did not direct it at an Anglo-Euro truck-stop in middle America. He chose gays, at a Latin Night in Florida, home of the human transplants.
I’m not trying to direct the narrative here about guns or politicians or laws or societal woes. Let the authorities and experts do their jobs and find out what they can about his motivations.
But let’s also not be afraid to state the obvious. He chose the target. It did not choose him.
Rushing to judgment, calling it what it is not, will do nothing to stop the next one. Nothing.
We need to be honest. We need to be thorough.
In any case, whatever they find out, let’s not vilify an entire region of the world, a region my descendants come from, just because of these people with their hateful ideology.
Is that too PC for you? Good.
We need to embrace Political Correctness, not use it like a swear word.
If being PC means not calling people insulting names based on their religion, then I’m proudly PC.
If being PC means not using derogatory terms about women based on their looks or old stereotypes then I’m proudly PC.
If being PC means I don’t have to listen to racist jokes or misogynist ramblings, then I’m proudly PC.
If being PC means I refuse to vilify a whole race or religion of one billion people because of a nasty few, then I’m proudly PC.
Do not forget what this country is supposed to be about: The right and freedom to speak, associate and worship.
Yes, you have a right to say those nasty things, but I also have a right not to listen. The First Amendment protects us from government interference in our speech. It does not mean I have to listen to your hateful rhetoric, or tolerate it, or spread it. It just means you have a right to spout it off, and I have a right to tell you to keep it to yourself if it offends me.
That’s what PC is: Expecting a little civility. What is so horribly wrong with that? Stop bashing it.
As a lesbian who has never been afraid to say what I am, I am so saddened that this mix of sad and angry is becoming all to familiar.
Attacks on abortion clinics, attacks on immigrants, attacks on gays: All are attacks on our way of life.
We are a country of laws, governed by the rule of law.
So, when some people say the terrorists are threatening “our way of life,” and then rant on and on about PC being evil and how we should stop people from “certain” places from coming here for a better life, I wonder what they mean by “our way of life.”
We don’t do that here. Those oter places do that: They judge and control and limit people based on their station at birth.
We don’t do that here. We let each person go as far as his or her talents and hard work will allow.
Those other places investigate people for being a little different and throw them in jail because a neighbor is afraid of something they said and reported it to the authorities.
We don’t do that here.
I know we were not always this scared. It’s not possible that we were always so greedy and selfish and afraid of change or anyone different. Not my America.
In my America, we are fascinated by differences and eager to learn more. In my America, we accept and have respect for those who disagree with us. In the America my grandparents came to, we accept the will of the voters.
I always thought “our way of life” meant striving to be better, working towards the common goal of making all Americans feel pride and love for country, for each other, for….yes…our American exceptionalism.
Our diversity is exactly what we are. We come from all over the world, from rich and poor, smart and not-so-smart, good and bad, lazy and hard-working, all yearning to breathe the free air of America, the place that lets you live according to your God-given talents.
We are a pluralistic society.
Live and let live for heaven’s sake.
That’s all we ask.
That’s all my grandparents wanted for themselves and for us.
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