I am the “other.”
Chances are that you are the other as well. Unless of course you are Native-American, then that is not the case. So, it is quite possible that your ancestors arrived on these shores in shackles and chains, victims of the abhorrent institution of slavery and indoctrinated into a new type of “otherness.” Or it may be possible that you or a family member arrived in North America, in these United States, seeking a better livelihood, a desire to escape war or flee religious persecution. You or your ancestors came by land, air and sea to The United States of America because it stood for hope in the face of suffering. Still the other but with a chance to assimilate and have the opportunity to access life, liberty and freedom in the messy experiment called The United States of America.
My grandfather, Israel Galperin, came here from Poland in March 1921 as a “transmigrant by bond.” When he landed at Ellis Island he was the other. I was very young when he passed away so we did not have any conversations as to why he left Poland as a young man to come to The United States of America. I can only assume that he came here because he felt it gave him the best shot at a better way of life.
He eventually settled in the Bronx, New York and worked in the garment industry in Manhattan. To assimilate better my grandfather, Israel Galperin, became “Sol Alper.” He married my grandmother Lillian, another other from Russia. Her family arrived here on the heels of the Russian revolution. She told me that as a young girl she was chased by soldiers in the woods near her home and separated from her family. She wound up for a short time in an orphanage until her family could be located.
Sol and Lilly raised three children, not always in the best of circumstances or with the best of finances. They tried their best and that is all that one could ask for. Their children went on to have children of their own, who have done their best to raise families of their own and contribute as best they could to the diverse fabric of The United States of America. That is the simple story. That is the story of who I am and how I came to be here in the United States of America. That is the story that must continue in order for The United States of America to survive, at the very least, comparably speaking, on moral high ground.
Lately, many people who were once others or came from a family of others have found it hard to identify with this generation of others, even though these people are interested in coming to The United States of America for the same reasons our ancestors did. The overwhelming majority are here for good purposes and, as in the past, this is a benefit to our nation. It is what has made The United States of America great. Yes, there may be a very few that wish to come here for nefarious reasons. That is a statistical reality and should be dealt with by immigration officials using the tools they have at hand. However, a ban on those traveling to the United States, especially one that singles out individuals according to their religion is divisive, antithetical in regards to terrorism and most importantly unconstitutional.
Today we stand at a crossroads in The United States. Banning individuals from entering our country because of their religion and origin challenges much more than legalities and constitutional rights. It challenges our collective compassion, empathy and humanity. It challenges us to decide what side of history we want to be remembered as being on. The side of the braggart without a heart, the showman who was able to tap into the irrational fears of 62.9 million voters to gain the presidency, only to begin the dismantling of everything The United States of America has stood for, leaving us on the doorstep of totalitarianism and global warfare. Or will we be on the side of truth, love, justice and the defense of liberty and freedom, not only in our country but across the globe. The future dangles in the balance.