New York City is one of those crazy places where you can spring for a happy hour of drinks and appetizers for three colleagues that cost $200 and then get into a cab with a young man who left the Kandahar province of Afghanistan the year before the war began.
Sometimes I feel that the chasm between driver and customer is enough to explode the world. Like fission or fusion or whatever the scientists try to do with the atom.
My cab driver can only meet his Afghani family in Pakistan because he, as an American citizen, is no longer welcome in his home town. He is now “the other”; the one responsible for civilian deaths. I know, without asking, that he is also “the other” here, in his adopted land (as is often the sentiment of naturalized citizens). One has only to read the papers to realize the message we give our citizens of foreign birth and then to realize how that is magnified “on the ground”.
He is a displaced person even though he does not live in a United Nations tent city somewhere in Gaza or Tashkent.
My grandparents never had anyone left in the old country; those that stayed did not survive World War II. They also had no desire to go back and visit a country that didn’t want them. So, while not being “of America” had its drawbacks and prejudices, there was no other place to call home.
But this man, a son of Afghanistan, who needed to leave for economic reasons, can never go home again. He loves America. But he cannot go home to Afghanistan, his ancestral home, where his grandparents are buried. The place of his birth, the place of his people, his language of origin.
War doesn’t just kill; it scars the living and the survivors.
Oh, the pain we have wrought.