Whatever your origins, the United States can seem a formidable, not always welcoming place, to an immigrant.
Especially in this “worst of times” (according to some), public rhetoric from would-be leaders and cranky voters can be harsh, even mean to newcomers.
But good people in this country saved my life.
No matter how hurtful and exclusionary the language — and we’ve heard a lot this campaign season — I temper my reaction to anti-immigration speakers with the knowledge that we are all immigrants here.
I wince when I hear some of the cruel language aimed at immigrants, wondering if citizens really believe what they’re saying, or if they’re motivated by fear.
The men and women of the U.S. Special Forces weren’t afraid when they risked their lives to save me in Afghanistan. The trauma surgeons, nurses and many medical specialists who performed life-saving surgery and care were so fearless they worked on my badly wounded body in the cold, in a rough war zone.
None had any obligation to rescue me and my husband, yet sacrificed to get us to safety.
That was 10 years ago, and it took some time for me to find my way back.
The Americans who saved my life didn’t let me go then, and some of my rescuers welcomed me here with such warmth that we’re all family now.
As the father in this extended family told me, after the citizenship ceremony, “We might not agree on politics, but our hearts are in the same place.”
Yes, all the anti-immigrant blather hurts.
Still, I’m thankful for the genuine welcome I’ve received from other Americans, who support newcomers with kindness and friendship.
I’m grateful to become an American citizen in this election season.
TOMORROW: Four reasons I became an American citizen