A poem from today's WSJ, by Ray Bradbury.
This poem really hit me between the eyes and in the heart. I remember flying to JFK from Scotland in 1981 with my brother, sister and Mum while my Dad stayed behind to sell the house and make a little last bit of money before joining us a month later. I was only 9 so had no real idea what I was doing, short of moving to the place where The Bionic Woman, Neil Armstrong and Barry Manilow lived and wasn't that going to be the coolest f'ing thing in the entire world?!!!! But now as I look back on my family's 25 years in this country; the ups, the downs, the poor times, the not-so-poor times, the struggles, the victories, all I can feel is gratitude. Gratitude to my parents' courage for doing something so risky and scary as leaving everything they had ever known and moving their three kids to a place they'd never seen all for the chance to give us a better shot at life. Gratitude to the country that welcomed us, the individual people who befriended us, the colleges who gave us financial aid, the fraternal societies like the Masons and our church and temple groups that gave us a social anchor in a very unfamiliar world. Gratitude to my parents' work ethic and their unbreakable spirits that saw us through our first years in The Land of the Free, which my Dad always reminded us included the flip-side of the word, that you were also "'free' to starve and be homeless" if you didn't work your ass off.
Today I'm middle class. I have people I can call to help us out if things go sideways, personally and professionally and legislatively. But I will never, ever forget the days when I wasn't. We were babes in the woods. We barely spoke the language, most definitely didn't understand the culture, and most decidedly spent most waking moments worried about money, food and education. Only as an adult do I finally understand the unbelievable amount of work and worry and sheer force of will it took for my parents to make it work and to produce three educated, successful, self-sufficient citizens and human beings out of a situation lacking any kind of safety net whatsoever.
So, in honor of my parents and all the parents who come to America on a wing and a prayer in the hope and faith that their children will have a better life:
We are the dream that other people dream.
The land where other people land
When late at night
They think on flight
And, flying, here arrive
Where we fools dumbly thrive ourselves
Refuse to see
We be what all the world would like to be.
Because we hive within this scheme
The obvious dream is blind to us.
We do not mind the miracle we are,
So stop our mouths with curses.
While all the world rehearses
Coming here to stay.
We busily make plans to go away.
How dumb! newcomers cry, arrived from Chad.
You're mad! Iraqis shout,
We'd sell our souls if we could be you.
How come you cannot see the way we see you?
You tread a freedom forest as you please.
But, damn! you miss the forest for the trees.
Ten thousand wanderers a week
Engulf your shore,
You wonder what their shouting's for,
And why so glad?
Run warm those souls: America is bad?
Sit down, stare in their faces, see!
You be the hoped-for thing a hopeless world would be.
In tides of immigrants that this year flow
You still remain the beckoning hearth they'd know.
In midnight beds with blueprint, plan and scheme
You are the dream that other people dream.