Call me Israel
The joys of my daily walks with Mr. Z. in Sarasota's Arlington Park include the meetings and greetings I have with people of many ages (small children in baby strollers through old farts of my generation).
Most are white skinned like I, but it's also great to encounter brown and black skinned walkers - unusual in de-facto segregated Sarasota.
I walk with hope in my heart and a smile on my face, looking for other walkers who are also filled with hope and smiles.
That's how I came across Israel, a young man with a ready smile, (yes Israel is his first name).
He and I have two things in common: - we both smile a lot; we are both mono-lingual.
My best guess is that Israel is about 17/18 years old. Despite our language barrier I have learned that he is from Guatemala and that he has a job in a Sarasota restaurant (probably as a dish washer).
My heart has gone out to this young man. I wonder "did he walk through Mexico to reach the U.S.A.?" and if so "such determination".
I have no idea about his immigration status and I don't care.
What I do know is that young men of his age in countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala often face a Hobson's choice, viz:
"You can join our gang but if you refuse you will see your sister or mother raped, or mutilated, or murdered".
Decades upon decades of American economic, political and military colonialism in countries such as the ones I have mentioned above have created dystopian societies in which the uber-rich live in their well guarded and high walled compounds and the poor endure miserable and hard scrabble lives merely to survive.
No wonder that the families and single young men who have an ounce of ambition and a pound of hope risk everything to make the arduous and dangerous journey to the United States, which for them is still a land of hope and opportunity.
I salute young Israel's ambition, courage and determination. I hope that my smiles and gestures have given him the message that this old man (himself an immigrant) who walks his dog in the park is saying "welcome to America!" May your dreams of a job, a home, a wife and a family be amply fulfilled.