Really Real America


I was sitting in a diner with my kids eating lunch the other day. Behind me sat a table of three men: a Puerto Rican, a Sicilian and a Polish guy. As we were leaving the Puerto Rican guy said to me, “Excuse me, miss? What’s your nationality?”
“Ehh, just American but my dad’s family is Swedish and my mom’s family is Native American.”
The Sicilian guy said to me, “I’ll give you $5 if you say you’re Polish!”
The Polish guy replied laughing, “Nope! Too late, she already said it!”
Then the Sicilian guy explained, “Sorry to bother you. We’ve been playing this game together for years whenever we need to kill time, we try to guess other people’s nationalities. Try to guess mine!”
“Hmmmm. Russian?”
“Nope, Italian! But lots of people think I look Russian.”
We laughed and wished each other well.
After lunch we went to the playground. All the kids immediately gravitate toward each other. Some speak Spanish, some speak English or Polish, but they all speak “kid” so it never matters. All the parents watch, all the parents push their children in the swings, all the parents tell their kids to stop climbing all over them when they’re wet from the sprinklers, until it gets hot and they change their mind. All the parents look at each other and laugh when their kids do something funny. A lady wears a burka, and her eyes are smiling. We are all the same. Our children even more so. A cop walks by and says hello. Later as we’re leaving, I see the same cop giving a guy a parking ticket. The guy looks minorly annoyed. No guns are drawn.
This is real life. This is real life for most people. The news is not real life. The news is a meticulously curated collection of the most tragic occurrences in our society. Some people are full of hate. They abuse their power. They get on the news. The ignorance and hate contained within a small number of people is being exposed every day. It’s difficult to watch. We’re in the middle of peeling off a huge band-aid that has masked the corruption in our society for a long time. But most people are not like this. Most people take their kids to the playground, don’t think twice about what language anyone else is speaking, and when it gets too hot we hug our wet kids to cool off.

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