Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum, so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.
America. For over 240 years, that word has meant Hope to poor people around the world. Hope for a better life, it not for themselves, then for their children.
However hard the journey was to get here, if you did get in and you worked hard, anything was possible.
We’ve so frequently failed to live up to that ideal — discrimination against the newest wave of immigrants has been repeated over and over again. Often the next-to-last-to-arrive try to drive down the ones just getting here.
Prohibiting immigration entirely from certain countries because of entrenched bigotry and racism isn’t new.
Yet over and over again, immigrants have brought new ideas, great food and music, become leaders and innovators, built the cities and towns, grown and harvested our crops, fought and died for our country — made America stronger.
And not just the people who came by choice — people who were kidnapped or lured with trickery and false promises; people chained in overcrowded, stinking holds, then sold into slavery; all of them built this country too.
Here are the new hopefuls, wanting to come through the Golden Door, the people we are supposed to fear because maybe they’re terrorists:
by Naomi Shihab Nye
My father’s hopes travel with me
years after he died. Someday
we will learn how to live. All of us
surviving without violence
never stop dreaming how to cure it.
What changes? Crossing a small street
in Doha Souk, nut shops shuttered,
a handkerchief lies crumpled in the street,
maroon and white, like one my father had,
from Jordan. Perfectly placed
in his pocket under his smile, for years.
He would have given it to anyone.
How do we continue all these days?
by Naomi Shihab Nye
A man letters the sign for his grocery
in Arabic and English.
Paint dries more quickly in English.
The thick swoops and curls of Arabic letters
stay moist and glistening
till tomorrow when the children
show up jingling their dimes.
They have learned the currency of the New World,
carrying wishes for gum and candies
shaped like fish.
They float through the streets,
diving deep to the bottom,
nosing rich layers of crusted shell.
One of these children will tell a story
that keeps her people alive.
We don’t know yet which one she is.
Girl in the red sweater dangling a book bag,
sister with eyes pinned to the barrel
of pumpkin seeds.
They are lettering the sidewalk with their steps.
They are separate and together and a little bit late.
Carrying a creased note, “Don’t forget.”
Who wrote it? They’ve already forgotten.
A purple fish sticks to the back of the throat.
Their long laughs are boats they will ride and ride,
making the shadows that cross each other’s smiles.
So out of the many questions I’m struggling with this morning, here are two:
Who are we now?
Who do we want to be?
Naomi Shihab Nye (1952 — ), was born in St.Louis, Missouri; daughter of a father who came to America as a Palestinian refuge, and a born-in-America mother. “I grew up in St. Louis in a tiny house full of large music – Mahalia Jackson and Marian Anderson singing majestically on the stereo, my German-American mother fingering ‘The Lost Chord’ on the piano as golden light sank through trees, my Palestinian father trilling in Arabic in the shower each dawn.” During her teens, Shihab Nye lived in Ramallah in Palestine, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas, where she later received BAs in English and World Religions from Trinity University.