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.