Thursday, November 04, 2004

Of Thee I Sing

I was going to avoid the political fray, and I pretty much am, but I had an unexpected coversation last night that actually improved my mood a little bit so I thought I'd share.

In the interest of getting over it and moving on with my life, I did the only natural thing to do and drank heavily last night, which meant I had to take a cab home. I wound up making small talk with my driver, which is something I normally avoid like the plague. He didn't know Queens very well -- not in a "Crap, I'm never going to get home" way or anything, but he was asking questions about the neighborhoods and why Queens is set up so differently from the other boroughs.

I asked him how long he'd been driving a cab.
"Two months."
"How long have you lived here?"
"Five years."
"Where are you from?"
"Pakistan."
"Do you like it here?" I meant New York more than anything, I was fuzzy from the bourbon and really didn't want to have a political discussion or debate the merits of life in the States versus life in Pakistan. But he said, simply...
"I wouldn't stay here if I didn't like it."
I let that sink in for a second and said, "I guess it's nice to have the choice."
"I have friends from my country," he said, getting a little agitated, "who curse America. I tell them, 'Don't you curse America! Curse George Bush if you want to, but don't curse America! You're here, you're making money, you didn't have to come here."

And for a moment in that car, I felt better. For this man, and for lots of people, the classic idea of the American Dream still exists. Even after four years of arrogance and alienation, there are people in the world who believe in this country as a place where they can come and maybe lead a better life. I guess there was an unfortunate tinge of "America: Love it or leave it" in what the driver said, but in his voice I heard more of "Love it or fix it." This was a man who was far from blind to the problems we're facing, and to the travesty that was committed on Tuesday, but he still wanted to be here more than anywhere else.

So today I'm depressed again, and I'm usually not the first to wax patriotic, but I know we'll get through this. We've been here for 228 years, through civil war and world wars and depression and terrorist attacks. We can stick it out for one more term.

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