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  WITNESS

Why Are You Here?



“Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, let us raise our voices in a solemn prayer. God bless America, Land that I love. Stand beside her, and guide her, through the night with the light from above”
Lyrics from “God Bless America”

While I push myself to deliver, I struggle against the shuttering of my eyelids against the backdrop of a night shift, stretching vigilance for an hour before sleep takes over. As always, my intent to read is overshadowed by my desire to interact, my wish to chat, and to talk to anyone who would care to linger with my words. Thoughts are sparse. Memory expires. Words are cheap. But if we do not respond, react or transmit what we receive, decadence will set its normal course, and digression will lead to nothing.
So why are you here? I mean, here, in America, the Land of the brave, the garden of immigrants?What are you doing in this sanctuary of refugees, a fortress of those who flee from oppression or poverty, or slavery and hunger? Why are you here with your degree and your talents? And why are they here with their ignorance, their crime, and their malfeasance? For those who were born here, why are you still here?
When I was studying the Chinese language in a Taiwanese University, I was taught that the transliteral translation of America in Chinese is “Beautiful Country (Mei Gwo)”. So I questioned my instructor, why beautiful? She shrugged her shoulder as a response.
As I recall in my past writings, I mentioned that as a child, I was quite disgusted with the United States of America for taking away my friends, my cousins, my uncles and my aunts. Various times we were at the airport, only to say goodbye to someone we cared for. In my innocence, I promised never to leave my birthplace and never to come to this place. Some years later, after twists and turns, I left my birthplace and then eventually ending up in this place.
As a personal confession, the only true reason as to why I came to America was to fulfill a promise to marry a girl I fell in love with. And I did marry her. I was scared, afraid, and unsure of what I could do in the U.S.A. My then to be wife assured me that I could always find work later. But then again, for someone with a degree in Philosophy and Theology, what kind of services can I offer besides boring a potential interviewer with a logical and syllogistic mental structure? And if I ever dared to include Theology as an asset, they probably would have sent me to heaven instead.
As years passed, I lived and digested every fiber of what America is, not necessarily liking or understanding why I was here. And then my son was born. At that moment, I was also born as a new father in a new land, a new culture and a scary promise filled with values I still did not understand. And since my child did not have the freedom to choose the parents he would be born from nor the land he would be born into, I felt mandated to at least help him grow up in this Land of the free with choices and equal opportunities to those who would dare. Did I dare?
Like many of the immigrant workers, my search for stability was not easy. I am currently a nurse, but it was not my dream to be one. My passion is in writing but that is not how I make my living. I am good at teaching, and I was once a teacher, yet I no longer am. In the midst of those volatile changes, I too was in the financial world, sales and marketing, investments and real estate. I was totally a “Jack of All trades” and I am still trading time and labor for that asymptotic line of excellence.
Why are you here? Did you escape from the tyranny of a government who wanted you dead? Are you here for the money as most immigrants are, in search of greener pastures? Are you here because your intelligence opened doors for advanced studies and you decided that you would rather stay instead of going back to the government that invested in you with hopes that you could someday return and give them back what you learned? Are you here with a contract? Are you here as fugitive? Or are you here because of love? And for those of you who were born here from parents born from another place, you probably have questions more profound as to why you are here, or don’t you?
Many immigrants, me included, celebrate the 4th of July with the traditional parade, typical picnic, barbecue and fireworks. Many immigrant workers simply enjoy the fact that they have a day off. Immigrant workers in the health care field, however, are not always fortunate to enjoy the holiday essence of this day. And then I ponder, with the same old question, why? Why are you celebrating something without the proper reasons to celebrate for? Oh well, many would say, let us party and have fun. What the heck? Who cares if we do what the rest of the world does? Life is short and tomorrow might never come. And I digress.
With my overdue deadline coming to an end, my eyes at the verge of shutting down, and my real job about to start in three hours, I have to conclude with something you can chew.
America is the land of the brave with equal opportunities for those who care enough to dare. Stories abound where rugs became reaches, poverty became wealth, obstacles surmounted, and every bit of human struggle and drama converted into an earthly fairy tale with bones, skin and disease. America is beautiful for those who work, study and learn. She fulfills the promise of justice for those whose values are ethical. She will condemn whoever and whatever goes against or works against the principles of freedom, equality and the pursuit of happiness. American is beautiful because her people are beautiful; people whose dreams stretch out to the stars; folks whose hands open where others have closed; individuals who cross borders as the last resort for something humane. We are here for these reasons, for something more, and for something else we have not disclosed. And for that, we celebrate, with food, fun and fireworks.
If by chance you are not lucky enough to be with a crowd and are forced to be at work, then bring these thoughts with you. Celebrate inside you the true reasons as to why you are here. Happy 4th of July folks! While the parade is about to start, I am going to take a nap. And there I will revisit my dreams, dreams that inspired me to endure the past travails just to reach the horizon of where I am, a destiny that is not yet done. Enjoy the day!



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