Thanks to the Immigrants
My oldest daughter recently got married at a beautiful venue in Brooklyn that overlooked New York Harbor and all its fabled sights: the Statue of Liberty lit up across the water, the Freedom Tower lit up to the right, the Verrazano Bridge lit up to the left. People would take a break from the festivities to stroll outside and stand in wonder at the sight of Miss Liberty with all her history, at the Freedom Tower with all the history it represents, at the Verrazano and the entrance to New York Harbor which for millions was the start of a new life in a new world.
New York remains the very symbol of what the immigrant journey was and is to America, but there are countless other places. I remember countless relatives who got off the ships in New Orleans (certainly not legally) and even others who made it to America through San Francisco and even the far ports of Alaska, which has a thriving Greek community. Years ago I spoke to the young priest assigned to the Greek church there and to some of his parishioners, some from Greece by way of the mainland, many in his church a polyglot of nationalities and races from Greek, to Russian, to native Alaskans of many tribes. How did you get there? I asked one elderly man who had been a longtime resident. How didn’t I get here? he said. He got on a ship in Greece, went through the Suez Canal, wound up stranded in Haifa, took a ship to the South Seas and Indonesia, took another ship to San Francisco, migrated through many jobs all the way up to Alaska, went back to Greece, liked that you could get land in Alaska for practically nothing in those days and went back there, and decided to stay and become one of the patriarchs of the community. What’s life all about? he said. Life is a journey.
The recent popularity of DNA testing proves just one thing: Greeks don’t have a monopoly in being mongrels (since we’re been conquered so many times). Practically everybody in the world is a mongrel and even so-called white supremacists are discovering they have African or Semite blood, which we probably all have, since they are among the founding blood lines of history.
So to people who tremble at the very thought of immigrants entering our pristine shores to pollute it with their foreign blood, the foreign blood you condemn might be your own.
And yes, the wedding was wonderful, and we got to dance both Greek and Italian (the groom is Italian) and everybody loved those dances the most and flooded the dance floor where we mingled shamelessly in an immigrant paradise that must be repeated endlessly throughout the beautiful tapestry of countless ethnicities that is the United States.