America the Salad

img_2540 In America, food reflects our country, and I love it! Snarfing down a lunch salad, I have quinoa, historically from the Inca civilization; couscous, typically north African; and a melee of vegetables, herbs, and spices that represent a world of cuisine. Since my days as a Sociology major, I was intrigued by cultures and subcultures, and even one of my favored professors went undercover to research the runaway prostitution train—until he was suspiciously murdered in Florida.

When I married my Palestinian husband, 35 years and 4 children ago, I anticipated a life of adventure. We’d planned to go to Saudi Arabia to become millionaires in the 80s; but I’m amused that although things did not turn out as I’d expected, we launched an export trade company and do business today with folks from many different ethnicities where we pick up smatterings of several languages and meet many fine people…here in America!

Diversity is what makes America great, and frankly I think that those who live their lives in silos are missing so much of the richness out there. As an educator, I celebrate that our schools are valuable meeting places for our children to learn about other cultures and religions first-hand.

When I was in 3rd grade, I went home with Angelica; she was Latino, and ate different food than my family. However, it was tasty! Then in 6th grade, I played at the house of my friend Patti; she was Jewish, and I learned that in a kosher kitchen one does not eat shellfish nor mix milk into scrambled eggs like my mom did. Although they were different from me, an American, Roman Catholic with Polish and Lithuanian ancestry, I considered them to be among my nicest friends.

To those people who are bent out of shape, arrogant, ethnocentric, and generally pissed off at the world, I say “Eat a samosa!” Indo-pak food is delicious! Enrich your life and appreciate the real, vibrant, and decent neighbors who are immigrants. Check out ethnic restaurants, and live a more fabulous life. In America, you have a world of possibilities, literally.

American Merit and Pride

2013-09-26_13-14-13_378 American Merit and Pride

Patriotism is not a subject that I have written much about, and it may surprise you that I do, as I fume over the faults of democracy in light of the government shutdown. Congress people are essentially government workers; why do they still get paid? I’m irked that they have feathered their own beds with elitist privilege while the masses and other government workers get nil. Yet, we, the voting public, are responsible for electing them, and we should be wise to demand a correction. What ever happened to the checks and balances system? We are out of balance, and it has become a farce thanks to permitting special interests to gain a foothold in politics. Where is the accountability?

Confucius had some insight and proposed a government administration designed on merit, as did Thomas Jefferson. Should we not reward people who uphold values of service, honesty, industry, loyalty, and integrity? These ideals are alive and well in the American public and in several corporations and non-profit entities.

As my brother-in-law, a retired international pilot just left after a month-plus long visit, he was so impressed by several experiences during his stay. These were contrasted, sadly, with the treatment he received from his own former foreign airline. It had been his dream for several years to own a particular model of a propane-fueled Weber grill. He had not visited us since his retirement as flight captain seventeen years prior. In his glory days, everyone practically genuflected to him, but now this is no more. For in many lands the concept of “wasta,” or clout, is the grease that makes things happen. No wasta? No chance, buddy!

To his frustration, since he is a retired pilot, some minion with a desk job first informed him that in order to receive his benefit of extra cargo allowance, he had to send a FAX with the company identification number of the flight captain assigned to his returning flight. An email would not be acceptable; and after tracking down the pilot, I made a trip to Office Depot and paid $3.00 for a FAX.

Then we were told that the pilot had to physically come to the cargo terminal, and we had to also physically be there within a half hour—during rush hour—in order to authorize the shipment of the grill. My husband and his brother raced through traffic just so the guy could then lie to their faces and make a new stipulation. They would have to ship the grill to New York from Chicago first in order for the airline to transport it. In the end, being such a fiasco, we decided to pack it ourselves with a shipping container as part of our export business.

Contrast this to the following experiences reported by my brother-in-law which make me feel grateful and proud to be American.

  • When purchasing an expensive sweater at Macy’s, the cashier volunteered a coupon that saved him 50 percent.
  • A sale price became available from a previous purchase at Carson’s, and he was given the refund and new sale price.
  • He purchased numerous items for relatives at Target; JC Penney; Bed, Bath & Beyond; Walmart; and Banana Republic, and had no difficulty in returns and exchanges to please the needs of many people he shopped for during his visit.
  • The Apple Store found that a broken iPhone he brought from a nephew—who purchased it from here when he was visiting last year—was twelve days over warranty. Apple honored it still and replaced the phone.

He ran numerous errands with me to all the major Chicagoland malls, post office, bank, grocery stores, and even to my husband’s doctor. We visited landmarks, museums, gardens, and restaurants, while juggling my kids’ needs and wound care for my father. Everyone was kind and very hospitable, a credit to our nation and those who serve.

At a time when we can be justifiably critical of some things in America, we also acknowledge that many of the American people are admirable.

Now, that my impromptu bed, breakfast, and tour service is wrapped up, I am eager to resume a large number of projects. I’m reminded, as my task list is long, of Lao-tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” God willing, I will produce works of merit that preserve values and promote excellence in Education here and abroad.