Nation of Immigrators
Dear Readers: I promise that this post is indeed about immigration and the quadrennial election on Tuesday. Please read to the end, beyond the meandering yet relevant introduction, to see the connection.]
Serling's introduction to his show -- epitomizing the man himself -- are forever part of American culture:
You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!
Foster Wallace illustrates his point as he describes a mundane, seemingly "boring" wait at a grocery checkout line, disrupted by the outburst of a frazzled mother yelling at her boisterous child:
[If] you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. . . .
[The] so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about . . . in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. . . . The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing. . . .
[If] you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
Last Friday we received our first two Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) approvals, and one of those clients sent this uplifting message today:
I hope as we enter the "other . . . dimension" of the voting booth, "a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind," that we are not entranced into reflexive thinking about "the so-called real world of men and money and power [which] hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self." Although our "present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom," I hope we remember that elections trigger consequences, and that precious lives and futures depend on our choices.
I also hope we acknowledge that America needs people, and more people, like Paul Parson's client, as well as the remarkable contributors whose lives are poignantly revealed in Green Card Stories, just as much as we need dedicated public servants who help "resolve horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem[s] through some small act of bureaucratic kindness."
In short, I hope we choose leaders who are likely to welcome rather than reject our nation's courageous and deserving immigrants.