Fellow Americans

Growing up in South Boston, I always wondered why everyone considered it the enclave of the Irish.  People would ask me what part of Ireland the Neas' came from, which caused me no end of confusion.  My Dad told me we were "Black-Irish" and my mother told me we were linked to Irish royalty.  My grandmother (Mom's mother) was an O'Riordan, which translates from Gaelic into The Kings Bard or Poet.  It took me years to weed through the legends and tall tales. 

Truth is I am an American mutt, just like many folks these days.  While I am still proud of my South Boston, Irish heritage, I am also proud of the German, Slovenian, Northern Irish, Welsh and other ethnic groups linked to my family. 

As a girl growing up, my mother always shared the cultures of our neighbors and friends with me so that I "understood who they were."  No one was ever "bad," simply different.  Different was never a problem.  It was OK to be different in Momma's eyes.  

We had an Italian landlady and Italian friends.  Some of my girlfriends' Italian grandmothers taught us to cook like they do in Italy.  We had a family from China who owned the laundry on L Street where Momma would take Daddy's shirts.  She always greeted them with a big smile and a bow.  The Armenian families in the neighborhood owned the dry cleaners and the corner stores.  I learned about the Jewish traditions from Max the druggist, who owned the pharmacy across the street from our house and about the Greek Orthodox holy days when Momma and I would walk past the Orthodox church just down the street.

The purpose of this jaunt down memory lane is to segue into sharing a new group that I have become aware of recently - www.myfellowamerican.us

My Fellow American is a project of Unity Productions Foundation (www.upf.tv), a media and education non-profit organization. The mission of Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) is to create peace through the media. The My Fellow American project is collecting stories about Americans who know, are friends with, or work with Muslim Americans.  

There is a pledge on the site that states, "Muslims are our fellow Americans. They are part of the national fabric that holds our country together. They contribute to America in many ways, and deserve the same respect as any of us. I pledge to spread this message, and affirm our country’s principles of liberty and justice for all. "  

Momma would have liked this.  She believed we are all equal in God's eyes and that God loves all of us, even those who don't believe the exact way we do.  She was the first person I ever heard who said that humans limit the infinite power of God to love by making statement about who are God's children.  We all are, every last one of us.

As an ESL teacher, I have had the opportunity to teach and become friends with several people who practice the Muslim religion.  In fact, Roger and I were "adopted" by one of my students from Bahrain.  I am honored to call him, son.  Since his return to Bahrain, days before the troubles there, I have often prayed for him and his family.

America is a land of immigrants, a land of slaves, and a land of outcasts. Many who have come to call America home have fled persecution.  We forget this.  

It is easier to demonize others, which is a trait some Americans have perfected over the years.  As a child, I heard the ugly words said about African Americans, I witnessed the tirades by good Americans against the Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Koreans, the Vietnamese and, yes, even the Germans, my people, who have been part of this country since the 1700's.  

Words have the power to cripple or to raise up.  The words, My fellow American, are Words from the Heart, when spoken with respect, tolerance and compassion.  

God bless us all as we learn to see ourselves in the eyes of others.  God bless us all.



Jen said…
I've always believed that it is because we are outcasts, immigrants and slaves that America is such a great nation. We have all been down at one time or another in our family history and so we know what it is to fight for what we believe to be the truth, even if others don't agree.

Being a country of mutts is what makes this such a great country.

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