It was a scene out of a bad movie, complete with explosive, bad guys and a chase that locked down a city. It ended with one dead terrorist and one barely alive one. The chatter I have heard makes me angry.
I am an immigrant, proud to have chosen to live in the States even after I was an adult with choices and dual citizenship to not have to, proud of the strength of my Romanian heritage and people, both those who stayed, who eventually overthrew a brutal dictatorship, and those whose strength was in leaving all of that behind and building a better life elsewhere. My parents had nothing when they came here and they worked hard... really hard. They worked the jobs that immigrants usually get - long hours, physically exhausting and often leaving them looking at one another on how to make ends meet. I loved my life as an immigrant, I hated my life as an immigrant.
I was caught between 2 worlds - the values and traditions of my parents who though proudly learned English and assimilated to their surrounding by embracing the US still held on to our native language, the ways they grew up (though it was bit dated) around raising their child, and overall never letting me forget my heritage and how it was adding to the fabric of this crazy quilt we call the States. I was an American because I had the freedoms many in my homeland did not, I had my basic and frivolous needs met, and I had no doubt though it was hard, it was not impossible for me to get that education and "that life" that my parents sacrificed and left the homeland that would not give it to us for.
So here are these 2 boys who in some ways are my story - gone wrong. They had opportunities and better beginnings than my parents who came here to no one, by coming here to family who seems to have done well for themselves. We both came very young and were aware of the the pain we left behind. We both were exposed to other Americans, other nationalities, other everything than we had been born into. Here is where they no longer can be my immigrant "brothers". Here is where the immigrant children I grew up with will look with disgust upon them. My friends and I took the opportunities, the sacrifice of being a stranger in a strange land that our parents put themselves through, the kindness of a country that with all it's flaws embraces multi-cultural-religious people. They chose to spit on gifts and give them the the finger.
I have no sympathy for these fanatics. I too know what it is like to look at the country of your birth and cry for what horrors are happening to it. My parents too know what it is like to watch their people persecuted and make a home in a place that may not be able to point at your country on a map. The immigrants of my family and my childhood friends know what it is like to sometimes feel like a foreigner both here and there. Yet we choose to better the world. We choose to make the US better where we can, to be thankful for the chance to start again, for the endless ways we have been able to help families back home. We choose to befriend those we see on our trips back to our native home as much as we form bonds with those we have met here.
These brothers make me nauseous. It is not that could not assimilate - they did not want to. There is a picture that shows officers treating this criminal after they removed him from his boat, the humanity seen there is something these 2 did not have. You have to want to belong, to feel human compassion, to be able to understand that different is both good and difficult, to know that if you take the second chance given to you by this country you may actually be able to do something good for the one you left behind. They chose to inflict, on the city and the country that gave them this second chance, pain and horror and a sense that makes the small minded wonder if any immigrant deserves the chance. They are not martyrs, nor are they political. They are what every terrorist is -- stupid, mindless, inhuman people who only care about their final act of "notice" rather than building a life that gives hope. They are not my immigrants, they are what my family and every other immigrant left behind - fear, darkness and most of all sadism toward humanity. They are not my immigrants who found pleasure, love and chances even when it was difficult and added to that quilt called the US. They are not anything...but 2 boys who had nothing to offer and chose to take away the most precious of all gifts..life.
We are a nation of immigrants made stronger by those very differences and the drives that brought us here. We bring with us a determination and strength that makes the place we settled in stronger. We are Americans - by choice or by birth and we must start our healing. Immigrants are part of the skeletal system of this country and native born citizens are the other part...we all know you cannot move (neither forward or backward) should you lose your bones. We are bound by difficulty and open to optimism.. we are Americans and many others would like to add to this number ... let the healing begin by embracing what we are and those who want to come here to better themselves and the place we all call home now.