My entire life I haven't had to look far outside of my immediate family to find someone to look up to, to call a hero. I’m a daughter of two immigrants, both from Greece but each with very different journeys that led them to each other. I think about my mom’s family, how they picked up and moved to and from three different countries, and am constantly reminded of the endurance of resilience. I look at my dad and his family, from a village that might seem small compared to the suburban town that we now reside in, but is fueled by a Spartan spirit – by farmer’s wisdom and strong women.
I think about what I've accomplished in my life so far - which at this point is kind of limited to graduating college, knowing all of the words to the Hamilton soundtrack, having an aesthetically pleasing Instagram - and compare it to everything that my parents have accomplished in their lives and feel immensely grateful for all that they’ve done for me. Because they did this all before I even came into the picture. They worked for a future.
I think about how our life epitomizes the American dream - about how at many points it must have seemed out of reach, only to become more attainable with hard work and determination. But how much harder does the work have to get, how much more unwavering the determination, until we are made completely numb to the struggles of particular immigrant communities? For as long as the dream has existed in the narrative of American culture and identity, it has never been one size, it has never been consistently realizable.
And yet, this is the country that my 89 year old grandmother always defends in conversations about American politics when in Greece. She wasn't born here, she doesn't even speak English, but she defends this country because she knows its values. These American 'values' are ones that were fought for and nurtured by American citizens and residents. The customers of my dad's restaurant who have supported it over the past 50 years, and in turn, made it into a community institution. I think about how my family is lucky to have been embraced, especially by today's standards, by America's people. My grandma respects America because it respected her back.
It is when we close our doors to a select group of people, when we make exceptions for some and hold unreasonable prejudices against others, that we are weakened.