Via Basel: Fifty Years
50 years, A Reflection
On this day December 28, 50 years ago, I landed in NYC on board a BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) aircraft from London. In a few days I would start an internship at the Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut. As a young male immigrant I had to register in the Selective Service draft and was classified 1A, which basically meant I was next in line to enter the Armed Forces. Fortunately the Vietnam War was winding down, and I was never called to serve. In spite of multiple challenges and major personal losses over the years, that positive feeling of beating the odds, of blessings and gifts bestowed, of hope finally realized never left me.
The chapters in my life between then and now were packed with a variety of life experiences, ranging from the ecstatic highs to the depressing lows, and a lot in the middle as well. That narrative will have to wait for another time to be born. My focus today is the big picture seen retrospectively as only a Monday quarterback can, specifically in relation to my adopted country, the USA.
On that expansive canvas the contrasts are bewildering. I am not the author as much as the observer with a keen sense of analysis and discernment. At times the further you are from the action the better your interpretation–or, the clearer your vision.
In my most intimate and personal relationships I fell in love hard and fast. It was bliss for a while, gradually fading as reality started to be unveiled step by step and differences could not be ignored. In an eerie, similar fashion, but over a longer time period, my feelings in regards to my new bride, my USA, slowly transformed from idolizing, to questioning, then reflecting, and finally accepting a fresh, nuanced, and down to earth assessment of its present condition. Coming to grips with aspects of this country’s sordid past, which I was not very familiar with early on, and leaning on my own personal spiritual and psychological growth over these five decades, I experimented with a new way of looking at it and dealing with it. It was not infatuation and blind attraction; neither was it hostility, cynicism, and incessant criticism of its leaders and institutions. But, instead, an acknowledgement of its imperfections, weaknesses, and, yes, its grave sins, past and present, while holding on to its underlying resilience, goodwill, and intentions, and most important its possibilities and hope for a better and more perfect union.
As I continue to evolve and close in on my final chapters, I am more than grateful for all that this country has gifted me over the last half century and resolve to show my love for it by holding it to the highest standards and helping it become a beacon and best hope for a global humanity.
Basel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Christopher Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, writing, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family, and now, semi-retired, he is exploring new avenues in medicine, education, public speaking, and social engagement.
Basel’s note on the photos: A month ago I spent a week in the Washington, D.C. environs visiting family but also got to take in a few museums and monuments, which inspired me and elevated my spirits as I reflected on the meaning of it all. These pics were a small sample of what I witnessed.
As one of the relatives you visited in the DC Metro, Basel, my great appreciation for this post may reflect some bias!
Nevertheless, reading it immediately called to mind “Let America be America Again,” a poem by one of the heroes remembered in the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, Langston Hughes:
Many thanks for sharing your reflections, and all best all around for 2022!
Actually I am the one indebted to you, dear cousin, for taking the fun pic of Einstein & me and inspiring me to write this post especially after visiting the monuments in DC and listening to your expert comments on each one of them. I love the poem above by Langston Hughes and am embarrassed to admit it was the first time I read it, and am in awe of his creativity, frankness and yes even hope for ” America being America again.
Great post and congratulations for your 50th gold noble, wishing you many more years to come.
Sorry for my delayed response. Even more unforgivable since I found your entry so touching, as I told you (right away).
Just like you I had to learn a lot. And I’m still learning and discovering ever more facets of that “expansive canvas” as you call it.
That’s why I appreciated Ramzi’s reference to Langston Hughes. Poetry is one of America’s great treasures that I think remains underappreciated both here at home as well as abroad. Especially when it comes to dealing with existential issues. Hence one of Langston Hughes’ poems that came to my mind was “I, too” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47558/i-too
In numerous ways your reflection mirrors my own experience as an immigrant albeit one whose 50th anniversary is still 21 years ahead. And just like you I feel compelled to share my views on the same subject from time to time (whether people like it or not – also just like you ;-)) like here for instance: https://theorcasonian.com/a-poem-for-the-4th-of-july/
It’s fine Wolfe. You are forgiven and redeemed by your thoughtful comments and wonderful references. Your poem is powerful and even more relevant today than when you penned it.