It all started with a Facebook rant.
Donald Trump was coming to Pittsburgh. Without getting into how I feel about him as a presidential candidate (read: not great), I’ll simply point out that his comments about immigrants – and comments from his supporters – were disturbing to me for a multitude of reasons. A great number of smarter, more eloquent people have elaborated on what was so alarming about those remarks; but for me, it was personal.
My father, Michael, came to this country in in the ’80s after civil war, a military dictatorship, and a Turkish invasion left the future in his home country of Cyprus uncertain. He followed my godfather (and great uncle) Lefteris (I call him ‘Tatas’), who left for the same reasons. Both my father and godfather got to live the American Dream one Pennsylvania Turnpike exit away from each other, but it wasn’t always easy. Their dark skin, jet-black hair and thick accents made it tough to initially find work; it was something that immediately disadvantaged them. When things got a little xenophobic here in the U.S., I’d notice Dad getting longer looks by passersby; getting ‘randomly’ searched at airports. After 9/11, when anti-Islamic rhetoric hit Threat Level Dumbass (ironically, Dad and Tatas are Orthodox Christians), he shaved his goatee, in order to stand out less.
I’m checking my privilege at the door: my dad has done insanely well in this country. So has my godfather. Both of our families have more or less been safe from most of the dangers and uncertainties of this oft-brutal world. Both guys are citizens now, and have been for quite some time. And while both of them came legally, I think the hyperbole used by Trump and his supporters as it relates to illegal immigrants bothers both Dad and Tatas. It certainly bothers me; because it isn’t about preventing people from entering this country, it’s about preventing people who look a certain way from coming in. Trump never proposed building a wall between the U.S. and Canada. When he says he wants to secure our borders, what he means is securing our border. The one between us and the people with darker skin. With darker hair. With accents.
So I rambled on Facebook. I posted stories of immigrants and refugees who have made a difference in this country. None of the posts amassed a ton of ‘likes,’ I never got that call from Matt Lauer, and Ellen passed me up, too. Trump came and went. He won Pennsylvania, he won a bunch of other states, and here we are.
But after those little red numbers went away on social media, my cousin Nick (Tatas’ kid) suggested that I start a blog about famous, not-so-famous, and influential American immigrants, in a similar manner to those posts (which can be found here, here, here, here, and here, by the way). I told him that I’d think about it, and that I would really think about it if Trump went on to become the nominee. While that’s not necessarily a done deal yet, it’s looking quite like Donald Trump will get the nod, so I went ahead and upheld my end of the deal. Here, on this blog, you will find haphazardly-written, disorganized, sporadically-updated stories about American immigrants who have made a difference in this world, great or small. Some of them will be famous; others might be your neighbor.
While this blog will be about what has been done, it’s also about what can be done: the next person to come to this country from afar could be the one who finally cures cancer. Who stops climate change in its tracks. Who solves our energy crisis. Gets us to stop shooting each other with semiautomatic weapons. But we have to let them in.
UPDATE: Trump is the Republican Nominee. So, yeah.