Loving the Alien

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It feels like I am riding on a psychotic carousel in these political times.-tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision living in a dystopian society, but here I am, stuck in the current political swamp. Now, there is an “executive order” from the man whose own mother emigrated to the U.S. from Scotland as a young woman, and whose paternal grandparents emigrated from Germany. Apparently in his mind, Western European immigrants are acceptable, while those from predominantly Muslim countries are not. My own father and my paternal great-grandfather were Italian immigrants, so I guess they would still have been deemed worthy. l hazard to guess that Malala Yousefzai would have been suspect because she is a practicing Muslim. Maybe because she won the Nobel Peace Prize, she would still be considered “fit” ideologically to enter the U.S., but perhaps not under the current regime.

There is this major issue called Human Rights. Hello? Can you hear me? I reiterate: HUMAN RIGHTS. David J. Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, wrote yesterday in The New York Times’ The Opinion Page an essay entitled, Trump’s Immigration Ban Is Illegal. Bier explains that The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 banned all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin, replacing the old prejudicial system and giving each country an equal shot at the quotasSeeking to deny entry to the U.S. to only Muslims, yet granting entry to Christians and others of minority religions, screams of discrimination and ignorance.

Over the years, I have taught English as a Second Language and English as a New Language to hundreds of Muslim students from around the world. Indeed, my graduate degree is in Linguistics from Indiana University Bloomington. Focused on academic studies, these students were neither proselytizer, nor terrorist. They were family oriented, good people who only wanted to further their education. This “executive order” is barring these highly intelligent foreign students from studying in the U.S. because of what: Fear, racism, and hatred? As one of my international students said after the November 2016 elections, “Who does he think is going to develop technology in the U.S.?” The student had a point since technology in the U.S. is populated primarily with Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern people. Building a wall to prevent Mexicans from illegally entering the U.S. is one of the more moronic ideas spouted from the incumbent. Did he learn nothing from the history of the Great Wall of China, or from the history of the Berlin Wall? Apparently not.

When a population is persecuted and banned, think Native Americans, Jews, Armenians, Bedouins, no matter the insidious forms of deprivation, humiliation, exile, and torture, these races and cultures have managed to survive. They persevere in spite of demagogues and twisted ideologies through sheer guts, dignity, faith, and help from sympathetic, more humane governments, like Canada.

I used to be proud to be a U.S. citizen. Now, David Bowie’s song, I’m Afraid of Americans reverberates in my head, as does his song, Loving the Alien. Come to think of it, his wife, Iman, who is a native of Somalia, would now not be able to enter the U.S. because she is from one of those seven countries Big Brother fears. Here is a reminder: Every one of us came from aliens, with the exception of Native Americans. It is disconcerting how mostly old, white, wealthy men harbor the paternal illusion that they are “protecting” their interests, under the guise of “protecting” the common people’s interests. They are driving policies in the U.S. that create more divisiveness, anger, and horror of U.S. Americans. I don’t know how the Electoral College can sleep at night after what it has done to place That at the head of our government when over two-and-a-half million more of us voted to give the other candidate the majority of the popular vote. Each night I pray for sanity to prevail.

Ciao for now.

 

 

 

 

A Big Birthday

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Various kinds of pizza are needed to celebrate a birthday! – tangled pasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Yesterday we honored my paternal uncle in celebrating his 98th birthday. He is the last of my father’s siblings, a family of three sisters and three brothers. My Italian immigrant father passed away just shy of 96, long after he had later brought his two younger brothers to the U.S. For various reasons, his three sisters remained in southern Italy. From 1933 onwards, my father’s family became geographically divided. Yet they always remained in touch throughout those many years.

Last night at the pizza party my cousins held for their father, I thought about how brave my father and his brothers were to come to a foreign country without having learned any English prior to their arrival, and with little money in their pockets. Granted, my father had a cousin who encouraged him to come to his newly adopted town, but to take that ship from Naples and sail to New York’s Ellis Island required a great leap of faith. Yet the three brothers all built new lives here, married, raised families, practiced their faith, and prospered in their own ways.

Last night my uncle looked on cheerfully as we circulated among one another, talking, laughing, and having a fine time. I thought about how much my late aunt, his wife, would have loved having the family together. Her good nature would have embraced the festivities. We all miss her very much, especially my uncle. Sometimes when I visit him, he says, “I don’t know why I’m here! For what?” I answer that he is now the patriarch of our family, that we need him to lead us. He tells me that I’m crazy, that no one needs him anymore. But he is wrong: he is the living link to our past, not that we think of him as a museum specimen, rather to know that we can turn to him for our family history and anecdotes. He reminds us from whence we came, of the struggles, the milestones, the essence of what makes us, for all intents and purposes, us.

Ciao for now.

The Bell Tolls Once Again

Paris artists and booksellers set up their work each day along the Seine under the watchful eye of Notre Dame. - tangledpasta.net
Paris artists and booksellers set up their work each day along the Seine under the watchful eye of Notre Dame. – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

We yearn to make the world to be a better, safer place for our children. We want the world to be alive with possibilities for our future generations. We want the world to have learned from its past, not to repeat its transgressions.

Yet look at what the world has become, or perhaps we should reflect upon what it still is. We think, “bad things happen” to people, to cultures in other parts of the world, not in ours. And then September 11, 2001 shattered our sense of security, of our complaisance.

Lately we have read and seen in the media the migrant crisis sweeping across Europe. Images of poor unfortunates who have lost possessions, indeed, with alarming frequency, their very lives, in attempting to flee oppression, persecution, fear, hate, and economics in hopes of a better condition for their families. We of all people should understand their plight: We are still a relatively young nation built upon the backs of immigrants.

Many of us love the City of Light. Paris is truely A Moveable Feast, as famed author Ernest Hemingway wrote. While the grandeur of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, and countless other stunning structures and hallowed venues loom large in Paris, for me, it is the Parisians themselves I cherish. I have found them to be kind, helpful, witty, humorous, creative, and astute. The horrors vested upon those at Charlie Hebro broke hearts, or at least the hearts among those that value human life and free speech. Yesterday’s tragic events jarred the French and the caring world to their very core. People at a soccer match, at an alternative rock concert, and those simply enjoying their Friday evening at charming cafes, were catapulted into savage acts wrought by madmen.

Maybe that is the crux of the matter anymore: The value of human life matters not to those who are hell bent on annihilating it. Furthermore, it is incomprehensible to those who have a moral core to understand those who lack one. We offer solace to those who have lost family, friends, and acquaintances. We attempt to make sense of the insanity, of the unfathomable, yet we come up short. In the end, all we can do is press on, holding our loved ones close, maintaining our integrity, praying, and continuing to try to make the world a safer, saner place than the one we now have before us. Sadly, the bell tolls across France once again.

Ciao for now.

The Daughter of An Immigrant

The Pontifical Swiss Guards at Vatican City have been guarding Catholic Popes since 1506. - tangledpasta.net
The Pontifical Swiss Guards at Vatican City have been guarding Catholic Popes since 1506. – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

The past days I have been following the visit of Pope Francis in the United States. Each day I watch the New York Times video footage and I read the articles chronicling this historic event. Hearing the Pope speak at the 9/11 Memorial moved me to tears. Hearing him address the United Nations and seeing Malala Yousafzai intently listen to him also brought a tear to my eye, as did the Pope’s service at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, and the one at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Throughout it all, I have envisioned my father and my mother with me, knowing how much Pope Francis would have meant to them.

I well remember when my parents took my brother and me to Italy and we stood in Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City on a Sunday morning. We were waiting for Pope Paul VI appear on is balcony and give us a blessing. The Square was packed with people. I recall getting pinched on my derriere by a handsome Italian man after the Pope had retreated from the balcony. As I turned to see who had had the impudence to violate my person, the Italian shot me a sartorial smile and disappeared in to the throng. Emblazoned too in my memory are the tears that streamed down the face of my father. He had immigrated to the United States when Mussolini was in power in Italy. This trip was his first back to Italy since he had left impoverished Calabria behind him. My mother too felt overwhelmed at the blessing of Pope Paul VI. Her paternal grandfather had immigrated from a village outside of Genoa, Italy. She too was conscious of her immigrant ancestors.

The media blathers about how Pope Francis refers often to being the son of an immigrant. Aretha Franklin, who will perform for the Pope in Philadelphia this weekend, said in an interview that she likes how he remembers his own immigrant roots. Well, as the daughter of an immigrant, I can say for certain that the immigrant and his family took little for granted. Aside from his wedding day, my father’s proudest day was when became a U.S. citizen. This was the country that gave him a new lease on life, one where he could realize his dreams of business, family, and college-educated children. Yet the pillar of these dreams was his Catholic faith. In spite of myriad obstacles thrown in his path, he never waivered from his belief that God would help guide him through these trials. That is why I shed tears over what Pope Francis means to me, and how my parents would have embraced him, how he too is part of a continuum of the immigrant experience.

Ciao for now.