Happy fourth of July. I am so grateful for what this country has given me and my family: education, opportunity, and freedom. My father is an immigrant from Pakistan, and this holiday always reminds me of how incredible his story is and how much he loves this country.
My grandfather was born in Afghanistan, and was orphaned as a teen. However, he remained dedicated to his education and went to college in India on a football scholarship. After completing his education, he joined the army and served on behalf of the British in World War II. Following the war, the British left India and created the partition of India and Pakistan, separating the Hindus and the Muslims and leaving millions displaced and dead.
My father grew up as the oldest of seven brothers in Pakistan. He went to medical school, completed his residency as a general surgeon, and served as a doctor in the army for a few years before immigrating to the United States with nothing more than a few dollars for a bus ticket and a friend’s couch to crash on. If the American Dream was ever real, it is tangible in the life of my father. He worked hard, facing many obstacles being a foreign born foreign medical school graduate, and he eventually ended up as an Emergency Room doctor.
I grew up in an affluent suburb of New York City and have been extremely privileged with elite education and access to anything I need because my father has moved mountains to get us where we are today and has never stopped for anything, even today, at age 71.
My father is the most patriotic person I know. I grew up with him telling me we were the best country in the world. Living here was his dream since he was young. He made it happen and he has contributed much more to so many sick people than this country could ever give him in return. He is not a “drain on our country’s resources.” He has never been given anything by anyone, nor would he want to be. He does not sympathize with terrorists; he is enraged by them. I believe my father is not an exception, but a silenced reality.
Many people hear the words “Muslim immigrant” and the image they conjure up is not the image of the 71 year old medical doctor who takes care of them in the ER working his fifth twelve hour day straight so that he can support his family. Immigrants come from many countries, many backgrounds, and have many diverse occupations, interests, and lives. They are not inherently dangerous or some foreign “other,” they are people we interact with every day.
When we tell entire groups of people that we don’t want them in this country, we are missing out on talented, hard working people who love what this country stands for and want to contribute to it. More importantly, we are betraying the very foundation of this nation.
I am so proud of my father and am inspired by him every day. I am disappointed for the many like him who will not have this opportunity because of the direction we are moving as a country.
Happy Independence Day, America. Please remember what we stand for: freedom and justice for all.