The poetic irony in the argument across the street got us all laughing.
We were blowing cigar smoke at The Twin Smoke Shoppe in the once mostly Italian immigrant neighborhood of South Philadelphia. And suddenly a couple of fellows – one Mexican and the other apparently Chinese — almost got to trading blows… over a parking spot.
Funny isn’t it. After all, whatever else an American believes or disbelieves about himself, he is absolutely sure he has a sense of humor.
At least when the joke is happening to somebody else.
Even Donovan, a tall, good-looking Jamaican contractor, who until a few years ago had been living the American high life a bit too fast. And after a near fatal car crash finally asked Stacy, probably the only Chinese woman who can’t ride a bike, for her hand. Now they have two young fully-Americanized kids who, like the rest of us… laugh a lot. Even their son with painfully flat feet.
Anyway the Chinese and Mexican guys got to barking, with a lot of the animated Italian hand-talk. And finally in a threatening manner the Chinese fellow bellowed: “Why don’t you go back to where you came from!”
And then wagging a menacing finger he repeated his snarling.
Now to me-duh-Jewish-guy-who-attends-a-black-Baptist-church, and Donovan, and a couple of South Philly Italians, an Irish bartender and a wrinkled, skinny heavy-accented Lebanese fellow we nick-name ‘the terrorist,’ this was hilarious… as well as somewhat appealing.
All of us were puffing away on benches and chairs from the peanut gallery across 10th street. I mean, this Chinese American guy with a distinct Asian accent possessed the absolute assuredness that he was a full-blooded American citizen. And he apparently was. But he obviously had his doubts about this ‘suspect’ Mexican seeking to park his truck outside a Mexican hamburger joint.
America! What-a-country! Even if it is the same country where it wasn’t that long ago that some bars and restaurants posted placards in their windows that read: ‘No Irish. No blacks. No dogs…’
Hmm… Jews and women didn’t need a sign to reckon these were not places that practiced the Golden Rule.
And now it’s ‘no Syrians.’
Amusing in its redundancy and repetition, isn’t it? Especially when I hear others describe us as a young country with an old mentality.
Admittedly I am more than a tad sensitive about all this. Considering that we once turned-away from America an ocean liner of Jewish refugees — thereby sentencing them to a one-way ticket to the Nazi death camps. And, shortly thereafter, we incarcerated 120,000 Japanese-American citizens.
Let me repeat that: Citizens. At that very same time of WWII we didn’t intern the hundreds of thousands of German-American citizens.
Of course the Syrians are mostly Muslims. And, as it turns out, all the way from 911 to Paris. these murderous and slaughtering jihadist terrorists are – or were — radical Muslims.
And, naturally, I harbor my suspicions and concerns about Syrians and Iraqis and Saudis, and Palestinians and what-not-Arabs fighting on the wrong side. That is the ever-changing side against the American forces… and now the Russians and French.
It’s already scary enough trying to live free and safely in America. We’ve got to dodge the cops who shoot more of us than the terrorists do; the bankers constantly choking us for our last dimes; the maniacs storming our Planned Parenthood centers; the crazies mowing down folks in movie theaters; the disenchanted blowing up government buildings; sickos picking off marathoners…
But of course! I have met the enemy… and it is us!… Mostly..
I mean I would actually prefer to be able to live out my life sentence on this penal colony we call Earth… as well as in a country where the only natives – Indians – should be tossed off their reservations for their poor immigration policies.
Hmm… Put them all in the Washington, D.C. with the rest of those ‘Redskins.’
But let me ask you: I understand that there are many Catholics, Jews and Protestants who are in our prisons for acts of murder, as well as other heinous crimes we find abominable in our so-called civilized climate.
Sooo… do you fear Catholics, Jews or Protestants?
I didn’t think so. And even though we lock our doors, chain up our bikes and encrypt our credit cards, we recognize that all people aren’t evil. But just enough of them to make us fear all. And suspect everyone. Especially in proportion to our ignorance of them.
And without a doubt, bad things do happen. Even by good people given the opportunity to be bad. We should merely expect the best and the worst of our fellow man – as from the weather. I mean, if somebody breaks into your home in the wee morning hours I am sure he isn’t there to sell you a home-owners insurance policy.
And you will take appropriate action. Even kill him. No matter what the reason he is there where he shouldn’t be. That’s just life and self-preservation at work. As it should be. I mean, as I just stipulated, sometimes we’ve got to batten down the hatches for bad weather.
What doesn’t seem to be at work is our American mandate. It isn’t to save the world, but to help others to help save themselves. Embrace the tired, sick, poor…. Yearning to be free. And to help our enemies clearly see the error of their ways. For we cannot and must not allow these terrorists to frighten us into abdicating our American ideals and democracy.
Or, to slightly modify what they proclaim in New Hampshire: Live Free or Die… mother-f-ker!
It would seem that as good, g-d loving folks we have few choices. Either take the refugees in… (which even the refugees don’t particularly cotton to). OR, to eliminate the cancerous evil that is making them refugees.
Hmm… If I’ve told you once I’ve screamed it more than twice in recent yDrewIS essays: It is up to America and Russia and France and the rest of Western Civilization to give these folks the opportunity to shape up – starting now – or get shipped off to never-never land… where there is no football, or cheerleaders or other halftime booty shakes.
In other words, they may not find Allah, but they will find there are no virgins in heaven… only the hell of women who turn out to be ‘Caitlyns.’ After all, the gods, too, are fond of a joke. And as I have often prayed: ‘Forgive, Lord, my little jokes on Thee, and I’ll forgive Thy great big joke on me.’
Whatever we do – and killing these terrorists is at the top of my Hanukkah wish list for all 8 days – what we must not do is turn on each other because we look different, or pray differently.
If we all went back – as that combative Chinese-American suggested to the Mexican American – to where we came from, who would welcome us. We would be foreigners. Strangers in a strange land. And most of us barely speak English. Forget the possibility of speaking our homelands’ native tongues.
Hmmm… Kind of funny, isn’t it? But then again the crisis of today is always the joke of tomorrow.
But of course!
Like that recent ‘incident’ at Chicago’s Midway airport. It involved a Palestinian who came to America 15 years ago, became a citizen and now owns a pizza shop in Philadelphia. He was standing in the boarding line speaking Arabic with a fellow traveler. And it made someone in line very uncomfortable.
The police were called. The plane was delayed. And the man, Khalil, was humiliated.
As Khalil eventually walked to his seat at the back of the plane, some were still suspicious — especially of a white box he was carrying – even though it had already been cleared through ALL the damn security checkpoints.
When they asked to see what was inside Khalil, to ease the tension, opened it. And then shared with everyone the baklava he’d bought.
Ahhh…. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And a woman ain’t nothing but future alimony. But it all amounts, like the baklava, to a taste of the sweet life that we shouldn’t allow these ferkaktah, meshuga terrorists to ever turn bitter.
Indeed, it may be a tad historical to fear Greeks – even when they are bearing gifts. But the vast majority of us simply seek to live a peaceful life… under blue skies and white clouds… surrounded by family.
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…