In December of 1971, I arrived in NYC on a flight from London as a young, single immigrant. Nixon was president and the Vietnam war was in its last phases. I only knew one Iraqi family and had an uncle and aunt in California. Over the next few years as I moved to several states prior to settling in Chicago, I was frequently asked where I came from. Most of the time, I had to explain where Iraq was and give a brief historical background (Mesopotamia or the land of Abraham).
Today, forty years later, Obama is our president and our last military units have just left Iraq after nine long years. I now have literally hundreds of family and friends from Iraq living in the US and Canada. With two wars there in the last twenty years, nearly everyone in the US recognizes that country and its affect on our lives in one way or another.
For me personally, the last four decades have been an extraordinary journey, with experiences ranging from the heights of ecstasy to the depths of agony. It is also but one immigrant story among millions in the last few hundred years who felt compelled to leave home and kin to come to a land of hope, opportunity and adventure.
As I gather with my family this holiday season, I am reminded to appreciate the gifts of generosity and acceptance this country has bestowed upon me. Even in difficult times, let us continue to keep that spirit of giving and sharing alive and well.
Wishing all our readers throughout the world the happiest of holidays,
The Escape into Life Family
Basel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Chris Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family.