This week has been something of a trial. We are in the process of having some renovations on our home. We contracted with a reputable company to get everything done from replacing the roof, windows, doors and the siding on the house. Yesterday the project began.
It is strange to have contractors or subcontractors show up on site and with a “We’re here to do your roof” who get down (or this case up) to work. There’s been no explanation of the process, the timeline or deliverables; workers began to swarm all over the house. Perhaps the experience is somewhat tarnished by past experience with contractors, but yesterday seemed no different than any other interaction (or lack thereof) of the on-site crew working on a project. I’m the customer, but no one on-site seems to care … or perhaps they are unwilling (or unable) to talk with me. It seems that the crew does not speak English—at least not to me.
Being an immigrant to this country is something I’m familiar with; my ancestors immigrated here from all over the world. Some are first-generation “imports” who arrived in the United States as children. Regardless of how they got to the U.S., all came and learned the language—from my Austrian aunt (this generation) to my cousin’s Indian wife. They came the legal path – immigrating within the laws.
I have clients in Mexico and I understand the drive for a better life. I understand that the US is viewed as a land of opportunity. It is. But is sad to be a citizen and/or a legal resident of this country and feel like an alien in my own country … and an intruder in my own home. If I step out my front door to talk to someone I’m paying to do work on my home. I’d like to be able to talk with them. It works with the people who work for my company; my accountant is from the Czech Republic. She lived in Germany and learned to speak the language. She immigrated here and she learned to speak the language. No one put up signs in her native language (or in German). To work, she needed to speak the language and talk with her customers. My roofers don’t seem to have the same perspective.
If I’m a visitor on vacation, I always feel it is important that I at least try to speak some basics of the native language, like how to ask directions, order from the menu and say “please” and “thank you.” If I were to live in another country, I would expect to become adept at the language. But somehow in my own country, I’m out of place and out of step and without a voice. We seem to be heading toward a day when there will be no common language.
We say we are a nation of laws. We were and are—but only selectively. If I as a citizen were to forge government documents (e.g., a drivers license, social security cards), avoid paying my taxes (payroll and income for instance), and assume someone else’s identity, I would be charged with forgery, tax evasion and identity theft. If I drive without insurance and a valid license, I’m again charged under the laws. If I make money and get paid in cash and fail to report it on my tax return, I’m back to tax evasion. If I commit a violent crime, I’m arrested and jailed … I am a lawbreaker from the first law I break. Under the simplest of perspectives, I am a lawbreaker.
If I travel to Mexico, overstay my permitted time, work without government sanction, don’t pay taxes and try to vote, I would be charged, arrested and jailed. As one of my Mexican clients stated, “The US has a problem with illegal immigration. You should do something about that. My country would never allow it.” I laughed and agreed. His response “It is a crime. It is illegal to falsify documents in my country. You cannot enter the country illegally and when caught not go to jail.” Yes, I know.
More and more I feel that my country has made me the alien in a familiar land. I am becoming an intruder in my own home. What price will we pay when we daily cede more and more rights to those who break the law? I do have empathy for those trying to seek a better life, and understanding and compassion too. But I don’t believe that these lawbreakers have respect for us or our laws.
Soon my country will be unrecognizable. Not by color of skin or even language, but by the lack of respect for laws and civility. It will be changed because we are not a nation holding on to the principles that our nation was founded on. We grow more and more to be a house divided, deriding our foundations and tearing asunder the fabric of what made us great. We were once a melting pot, and the points where our differences came together to make us strong. Now new differences are tearing us apart. We were a nation of citizens, melded together to a common purpose. We were “One Nation under God, with Liberty and Justice for all.” With mistakes and missteps, it wasn’t perfect, but we were a great nation. Now we are nation that is turning from God and have liberty and justice for some, not all.