So I stopped by a downtown computer shop, that just a bit smaller than the average American's living room. As I entered the front door of the store, I saw an obviously Middle Eastern man sitting behind the counter and talking on the phone. He spoke with a very heavy accent; however, I could not quite place its origins. I noticed that he somehow seemed unusually nervous and attentive. Then I heard him say, "Excuse me please, Sir. I will be with you in just one more minute."
As I was in no big hurry, so just continued to browse through the stores’ very neatly organized shelves. Then a minute or two later, he again apologized and said that he was almost finished.
Then I began to wonder, "why is he so obviously concerned about me...do I looked like I am pissed off or mad?"
Suddenly I heard the tone of his voice change, as then I heard him say, "Yes, I love you. I love you very much. It is OK. Everything will be just fine. I love you too. Please take care of yourself. Good night my love. Remember, I do love you." Then he set the phone down and apologized...yet again. "I am so sorry to keep you waiting, Sir. That was a very important long distance call that I had to take."
I said to him, "I should imagine so, as you just said good night and it is not yet even Noon here in San Francisco.”Really, Sir it was no trouble at all." I said.
Once we had determined the type of memory that my laptop required, he produced a small Mylar envelope with a 128 MB RAM module inside. He then asked me for $68 -- for an upgrade that I remembered paying several hundred dollars for… not long ago. So I thanked him for his low price, and then complimented him on how nice and clean his store was.
"We offer low prices to our customers, so they can still get what they need right away," he said, explaining that people are always in a hurry, but don't want to spend much money downtown." He was so polite, it was kind of embarrassing me. Then, I suddenly understood why this man was being so polite. I smiled and said to him, is has been a very difficult couple of weeks to be a Middle Easterner in America, hasn't it?"let out a sigh of relief and he said, "Yes, Yes it has...so very much so."
I asked him where he was originally from, and suddenly the fear came back into his eyes. Then, all in one quick breath he blurted out, "Jordan. I came here from Jordan, but I am a Catholic and I have now been in American for 22 years now and I am also an American citizen."
Suddenly, my heart sank as I remembered his telephone call. I knew the answer, before I even asked him if his earlier telephone call had been from Jordan.
"Yes," he replied, "That was my new wife and she is in Jordan right now, she is very much afraid. As I am a US citizen and we are now married, she was able to get her papers from the American Embassy last week. However, now she can not leave Jordan, because there are currently no flights to America. They have also now closed the American Embassy, and maybe indefinitely. She is afraid she will now be stuck there and that something bad will happen to me. I am worried about this too."
He then went on to explain how afraid she was about returning to America. She worries about the growing hatred in the hearts of many Americans, which she hears about on the television. She has read in the newspapers about the wave of hate crimes being committed against Middle Eastern Americans, over these last two week. Then, in a kind of quiet desperation, he said to me "I’m an American citizen and I am a Catholic. I believe in Jesus Christ and I go to church every Sunday."
He went on to say, Most Jordanians are deeply saddened by what happened in here in America. Many of my Muslim friends in America are also outraged, as well as afraid." Then he added, “The people who these horrible things are a very extreme and angry sect of people and they have very little support in Jordan. Most people there do not support any kind of terrorism. People here do not believe this, but most Catholics and Muslims that I know are very peaceful."
We continued on sharing our mutual concerns about current state of the World and wondering what might happen next. Then I finally shook this troubled American's hand and as I was about to leave the store, I turned and said, "I will pray that your wife has a safe journey home. Good luck to you both and I hope you both have a wonderful life together, here in America." He thanked me and walked to the front of the store and then shook my hand once again, as I opened the door.
As I began walking down Market Street, I felt my eyes suddenly filling up with tears. I was staring across the street, at a little boy who was selling hand-sized American flags on the sidewalk. Then tears really started to run down my face. In my mind, I was suddenly young boy again. I was standing beside my school desk and with my right hand placed upon my heart, as I said "One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
Then I remembered how when I as a young child, how I became troubled whenever I read or heard about World War II. I would be horrified as I read or saw photos of what had happened to so millions of innocent people. Many of those innocent murdered Jewish people, still haunted me in my dreams. Then I thought how they had also been proud citizens and shopkeepers. Much like that Jordanian man had been.
Then I thought about a conversation, from the previous weekend, where one of my friends had said to me, "we should no longer trust any Middle Easterner people, because they might be sleeper terrorist. After September 11th, we can no longer take that chance. Even if means we have to arrest them all and put them in jail."
As I continued to look down Market Street, I suddenly felt 225 years of American history reached out and shake me. As I then thought to myself, "is the land of the free and the home of the brave now being forced into watching everything that it has stood for… erode away in just two (2) short weeks?”
"We hold these truths to be self-evident," I thought to myself, as I quietly mouthed the words to myself. "That all men are created equal” and by holding these truths in our hearts, we become who we are... as human beings and as Americans.
What about you? Are you an American citizen? If you are, then be sure that you are living as American.
In fact, I now have challenge for you. Please see if you can follow through with it. Go and find the nearest American flag, then put your hand on your heart and renew your vow to America.
”I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL."
That is what I did that day, as I walking past the San Francisco Courthouse, on my way home.