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.
Thank you Basel, for posting some thoughts and remembrances about your 40 years here with us. Meeting you and soon thereafter your son Christopher and a good many others in your family tree has added depth to my life. Knowing and remembering Christopher for the extraordinary man he was continues to enrich my own journey. You and your amazing Iraqi family have provided me with some insight into your country of origin and its heritage as the land of Abraham. Your roots go deep into the common story of all people. Iraq is much more to me now than a place the media has been preoccupied with for nine years as a place we spent the lives of so many young people trying to answer the question as to why we ever went there in the first place. Your thoughts about this unanswered question would be welcomed.
Glad you’re here, Basel.
I share your adventure but I have been in this country of opportunities for 54 short years I enjoyed Chris’s company ,since I was his Godfather whenever we meet here in Puerto Rico or in the U S.
May God keep you and Mandyin good health to continue with EIL.
Your uncle Ramzi
Nurturing the spirit of giving and sharing, remembering generosity, appreciating acceptance … these are lovely sentiments to cherish in this new year. Thank you Basel, for telling your story and reminding us all of the values that matter.