Everyone has a story. Most people have an interesting story if you can get them to tell it.
Late one day, I was walking to my room after checking into the Hilton in Detroit. I like to chat up pretty much everyone when I get a chance, so I said hello to the chambermaid in the hall and asked how she was. She was timid, not used to the people in the hotel talking to her. I guessed she was not from the United States. Few people who clean hotel rooms are, and I fear she was used to the guests ignoring her.
That’s enough of a reason for me to say hello, to show a bit of respect, merely by acknowledging her, usually enough to make a person feel welcome. I tried to place her country of origin and couldn’t, so I asked where she was from. She hesitated, then I knew it was from the Middle East. Middle Easterners always hesitate; they assume that I hate them. I waited, and she said, “Iran.”
“Do you like the Tigers?” I asked?
“No, I like the Wings,” she said proudly.
“You are going to make a good American,” I told her, and she beamed.
The next day, I was in my room working when she came by to clean. I got her to tell me that she had been in the U.S. for a few years, that she worked two jobs, her husband two more, and that she had two children in school. She worried about her kids fitting in, that they were becoming too American too fast. Her daughter was going out with am American boy, and she, of course, worried about her. Her children sound like Americans when they speak, don’t care about there own language, and perform among the best in their class. She feels badly that she is hardly there for her kids, and has to work so hard. I said, that it is the way immigrants become American, and that I hoped her children were very successful and took care of her when she was older. She deserves it, for she is making sacrifices for her children so they can live in the United States. Living here is not enough. Becoming a citizen is not enough. If you come here, you need to become an American, and they are trying.
Her family likes the Wings, while I hate the Yankees.
When my son was a boy, he once said, “I hate that.” I have no idea what it was that he hated that day, but my then-wife took it as an opportunity to say, there would be no talk of hate in the house, and went on as to how, “Hatred corrodes the vessel that holds it.” There was an exception, of course, when it came to the Yankees. We loved to hate the New York Yankees, as did my parents and grandparents. We grew up loving the Red Sox. You had to hate the Yankees if you were from New England.
Now, this was all good natured form of hatred, if there is such a thing. Players could go from one team to the other, but it does seem as if the flow of great players has been from the Sox to the Yankees, starting with Babe Ruth.
Red Sox player Johnny Damon professed his dislike for the Yankees and was quoted as saying, ”There’s no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they are going to come after me hard. It’s definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It’s not what I need.” — Johnny Damon, May 2005
The traitor Damon then went to play for Steinbrenner’s evil empire, and a t-shirt was soon seen around Boston with his long-haired image, and the words,
Looks Like Jesus
Throws Like Mary
Acts Like Judas
It still annoys me after ten years. He even shaved his beard and cut his hair to look like a Yankee. Damnit.
It’s the American way to change teams, but the loyalists have to continue to support the home team. The right to change teams often comes with a fight. Curt Flood refused to accept a trade, challenging baseballs reserve clause all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Flood lost, but shortly thereafter, free agency became part of baseball.
It might be painful, but the freedom to change teams is the American way, even if it is to the Yankees. This rivalry is so old and so strong, the TV broadcasters like to show a couple, husband and wife, one tricked out in a Red Sox hat and gear, the other in Yankees pinstripes. Its perfect.
When I lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, there was a guy from Iran who ran the Oriental rug store on Congress Street. He married an American woman. I ran into him often at Starbucks. His mood ran hot and cold, depending on the Sox and the Celtics. Once in a while, we sat and talked, and I asked him questions about Iranian politics. Once, I said, that I thought it was a good deal that he could have more than one wife. He looked at me, and said, “You don’t know what the hell you are talking about.” He complained that his one wife and several daughters never paid any attention to him. Welcome to the American team.
It’s the American way to allow anyone onto the team who can play the game. It has not always been that way, and we need to work to make sure the American team adds players as soon as they can play. There is no reason, ever, to keep people off a team who can play. Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play major league baseball in 1947, the date many people use to recognize when baseball was integrated. It was really the ridiculously late date of July 21, 1959, when the Red Sox added Pumpsie Green. Neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees, both late to integrate, could win against teams that had. As a Red Sox fan, it pains me that the Sox were dead last in integrating. They can never say, “wait until next year.” That game is in the record books.
I wonder at the irony in Curt Flood fighting baseball’s reserve clause a mere ten years after Pumpsie Green played for the Red Sox. Flood is not as recognized as Robinson, but I imagine every adjective used to demean Robinson was also directed toward Flood. It was Flood, the American, who changed the American way in America’s sport.
After you make the team, changing teams is a big decision. When my mother, an Irish Catholic, married my father, a Scottish Methodist my Irish descendant grandmother, Maize Donovan, seethed quietly. She had lived in the Irish section of Boston. Nor did she like it when my mother’s sisters married men whose families had come from Italy. At least they were Red Sox fans. Soon, however, she loved my father and my uncles. It is American to marry someone from another religion or race. It is what we do. Our children are all mixed up. Good for us.
Americans don’t have a problem with immigrants. They like them. They understand that the country is based on immigration, and that America has a culture of inclusion, perhaps not as good as it should be. It is not just what we strive for; it is what we fight for. A culture of inclusion, however, means that once you come here, you have changed teams. We want you to get onto the American team. We will even give you a generation or two. I wish we would figure out how fast immigrants could get onto the American team. If there are too many too fast, then we end up with isolated communities, based on a culture that is not American. It won’t work.
Americans don’t care if you bring your religion with you. I suspect there are more religions in the United States than in any other country.
We believe in freedom of religion, as long as it is a religion of freedom.
Bring your religion of freedom. Just don’t cut women, make them enter by another door, or prohibit intermarriage. Don’t tell a woman she cannot do something because she is a woman. That alone leads to third-world backward cultures dominated by stupid men. No society can advance by holding back women. If you inhibit the freedom of anyone from doing anything because of race, sex, or sexual orientation, then I don’t want you here. Frankly, get out. You will ruin America.
You cannot bring your laws with you. We have our laws, laws fought for in a Civil War, World Wars, and Civil Rights wars, where men, women and children have died, sometimes by our own hand. We will fight again if we have to, reluctantly, but test no American in his will for freedom.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Founding Father’s set a high bar, a bar even they did not clear. Yes, we can do better. But we can never lower the bar. If that bar is lowered, there will be no America.
The Catholics don’t measure up, you say? It would be American for women to be priests. We are getting there, too slowly for me.
Last night was New Year’s Eve. I went to Catholic mass at a small church in Bocas Del Toro, Panama with my Panamanian girl friend who is descended from China, and is Catholic. One priest was from Panama, one from Vietnam, and one from Spain. There were people in the simple church descended from Africans, Indigenous Indians, Chinese, Spanish Panamanians and a few Europeans, like me. I was the only man wearing short pants and sandals. I hope my mother wasn’t watching from heaven. I would have tried to justify my attire by telling her Jesus wore sandals. People from all over the world were there, cultures mixed but parts preserved, making one culture in one Church.
I liked the mass. The music was Latin and fun. There was lots of clapping and swaying, mostly by the black people and a group of Chinese girls. Only one woman wore a veil. That’s her choice. No man can tell her what to wear. I recall that my sisters and mother had to wear scarves to church. I also remember a feeling of superiority that I, as a boy, was exempt. I was an altar boy at St. Rose in Topsfield, Massachusetts, and girls were not permitted to serve. Today, I would refuse, but today, girls can serve. It is an important message to boys.
If you want to be American, then your old culture has to fade into the mixed-up American culture. My ancestors didn’t like it, but they had to accepted it. It makes us who we are, and it makes us stronger. Your culture will be absorbed, and change America for the better. However, if you come to America, and you build barriers to becoming American, isolate, and refuse to join the team, then I fear for my country. We will lose the essence of who we are, a people who are comfortable with changing our core, but not our core principles of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness and the Freedoms described in the Bill of Rights.
The woman who changed the sheets in the Hilton likely had more education than the people who slept in the beds. Maybe that is the price she has to pay, having escaped a country where she was no longer safe. She might have to give up the hope for her daughter to marry a nice Iranian boy of the same religion. I hope her daughter’s children will be American, and nothing else. I hope they like the Tigers, hate the Yankees, and root for the Red Sox if the Tigers are out of the running.