The Other I

May 17, 2017

We’re all in this together

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 3:58 pm
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Image result for we're all in this togetherI’m beginning to sound like a broken record to myself.  I keep reaching the conclusion that, for better or for worse, we’re all in this together.

Several hours ago, for instance we received a delivery of a package by two young men.  It was rather large and they offered to deliver it inside for me, rather than my having to drag it in after I’d signed for it.  I accepted their offer, and in the process thought I’d recognized the accent.

“Where are you from?”  I asked.  There was a pregnant hesitation before the older man said  “Poland.”

I understood immediately.  Many of the Brexiteers here in Britain, particularly the elderly, voted for Britain to leave the European Union because they claimed immigrants were taking jobs away from the native British and we couldn’t stop them because the EU is based on the free movement of people among all 27 EU countries.  Polish plumbers are for some reason inexplicable to me, pointed out as a particular source of ire.

“I thought I recognized your accent,” I replied.  “My mother was a second-generation immigrant from Poland.”

The atmosphere changed to smiles immediately.  “It’s a small world,” he responded.

They left, probably feeling lightened by a sense that, in this house at least, they were welcome to live and work here.

But one of the most interesting things for me was the sense of identification I felt with them.  I don’t know their names, why they came to Britain, whether they are supporting families in Poland, or anything else about them.  And yet, I felt a special sense of identification with them, a kind of warmth that one might feel about a family member one is meeting for the first and possibly last time.

As I closed the door, all I could think was how we are all in this together.  I meet two complete strangers for less than five minutes, and I can understand the age-old and universal drive to survive, to care for one’s family, to work hard for years for a better life.

But there was also something special about the fact that we shared a common heritage.  I would not have felt hostile had those delivery men been from Romania or Vietnam or Sudan.  I would have tried to make them feel welcome and respected.  But I wouldn’t have felt that special relationship I felt for a Polish immigrant.

What I’m thinking is that I may actually have something in common with the Brexiteers.  Or (God help me) with the Trump followers who want to make America great again.  Or even the Germans who were fighting for The Third Reich.  There is some special identification we experience with those with whom we share a heritage.

 

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