Monday, May 01, 2006

A beautiful remembrance

Azra Raza at 3Quarks has pulled back the curtain a bit to reveal something of the substance behind the form at that extraordinary website. As the fourth anniversary of a great personal loss approaches she writes a tribute to Harvey David Preisler, her late husband. There is no guile, no implication of a connection between this post and the occasion of today's nationwide demonstrations focusing on immigrant issues. But as I read this piece I could not help measuring the power of its story against that backdrop.

Harvey loved football with a passion that was only matched by mine for poetry. He was exceedingly anti-social and worked actively to avoid company while I had a considerable social circle and was almost always surrounded by friends and extended family. If you saw the two of us going out to dinner, you would have been confused; I looked dressed for a dinner at the White House while Harvey could have been taking the trash out. We met in March 1977 and did not match in age (I was 24, he was 36), status (I was single and a fresh medical graduate waiting to start my Residency, he was married with three children and the Head of the Leukemia Service), or religion (I was a Shia Muslim, he came from an Orthodox Jewish family, and his grandfather was a Rabbi). Yet, we shared a core set of values that made us better friends than we had ever been with another soul.

As Americans we may be one of history's most remarkable experiments in cultural development. Memories of floods, wars, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions take only two or three generations to fade, which is why populations continue to live under those threats, rarely moving to protect future generations against the same tragedies. Likewise, many Americans have forgotten that we are all derived of immigrant stock. The story if Azra and Harvey (or David, or whatever he was called by his friends) is in many ways the story of America. It illustrates, more than anything I can make up, why the time has, the time has already passed, when millions of people in our midst who have been working and contributing to the general welfare should be recognized, accepted and officially made part of the melting pot we call the U.S.A.

No comments: