I don’t travel very much. I have spent the majority of my life in Massachusetts, safe in my comfort zone. I know how people around me generally behave, but I don’t know all that much about other places.
But last weekend my niece got married way across the country, in far off San Diego, in the distant land of California. I really love my niece, and her family. So my sister and I got tickets and headed across this great land to celebrate the big event.
As we set out on our epic journey, I wondered what I would see as I mingled with Americans from all over. Would I see the same hateful, dangerous, sickening levels of racism that are reported over and over again in the press? Would I see people shouting at those who spoke Spanish, demanding that they “Go back to Mexico”? Would I see people spitting on those in middle Eastern dress?
I was ready.
I was pumped up and prepared. I had even internally practiced some of my responses. “Please stop. You are being a racist. Stop.” Or, “Where were your grandparents born?” I was scared to face the reality of Trump’s America, but I was ready to strike back.
I was channeling my inner Bernie Bro as I got Logan Airport in Boston.
Now that I am back at home in my rural, safe, quiet little New England town, I have to say that I am mightily relieved at the reality that I witnessed on my trip.
My sister Liz and I spent time in Boston, San Diego and Chicago. We mingled with hundreds of humans of all races, ages, ethnicities. We had the pleasure of people watching in some of this country’s largest airports.
And these are some of the memories that I brought back with me:
1. A Spanish speaking family with a beautiful little 2 year old girl was seated across from us on the plane. The little girl shrieked at one point as she watched a movie on Mom’s iPad. Her young parents tried to shush her, but the people seated around them chuckled, laughed and commented out loud about how well behaved she was.
2. An African woman (perhaps from Somalia?) was waiting at one gate at O’Hare. She was dressed from head to foot in a gorgeous deep blue robe that covered her head. She had to little girls with her. They were somewhere between 6 and 9 years old, I guessed. The girls were each dressed in robes like their mom’s, although the colors differed. All of them had deep, dark brown skin. All had gorgeous white smiles. The two little girls were dancing as I walked by, so I stopped to watch. They were whirling around, their blue and deep green robes swirling. They were laughing. Their Mom looked like every traveling parent on earth; tired, impatient, anxious. But she was smiling at the kids.
I gazed around, worried at how people might be reacting to this obviously not “American” family. I saw an Asian man laughing as he watched. I saw a red haired woman smiling at the woman. I saw a group of teen aged typical white kids giggling and smiling at the girls.
3. At one point, Liz and I were in need of a quick food fix. (You’ve traveled, right? You get it!) I decided to grab some spring rolls and rangoon from a Chinese place. I got in line. In front of me were two handsome, youngish businessmen. They were carrying leather briefcases and wearing expensive suits. They were chatting casually as they waited. They were speaking Spanish.
This struck me funny, given that we were waiting for our Chinese food. Then I realized that I was buying food for two middle aged Italians. I glanced behind me and saw a black teen, two blond women, and three more young black men.
Not an Asian in sight.
As we got to the check out, I heard the men chatting with the cashier in Spanish. The only word I caught was “soy sauce.”
4. I saw a young black woman with gorgeous braids holding a door for an older white man. They were smiling at each other as he thanked her and she answered, “No problem!”
5. When we got to our gate in Chicago, needing to catch our connecting flight to Boston, we weren’t able to find two seats together in the waiting area. So I sat down and held our luggage as Liz went in search of a rest room. An Asian man, perhaps Korean, took his bags off of the seat beside me and said, “OK.” as he nodded at me. I thanked him, but he didn’t seem to speak English.
A few minutes later, his teenaged daughter came along and saw that she had lost her seat. “Hey,” she said to her Dad, who answered quickly in his native language. “I’m sorry,” I began, “You can have the seat.”
She wouldn’t hear of it. “No, no! It’s fine” she said in perfect English as she gracefully slid to the floor and opened her laptop.
I was so relieved. So grateful. I saw a big mix of people, all helping each other get through the frustrations and joys of travel. I saw people smiling at babies, oblivious to the color, language or nationality of said babies. I saw young people respecting their elders and elders smiling at youth.
I saw the proverbial “melting pot” in action.
When we were on our way to Boston, I told Liz about what I had observed. I told her that I was relieved to see that “in spite of” the hatred spewed out by the Trump administration, we were managing to rise above it.
Liz is usually more astute than I am, and this time was no exception. She shook her head and said, “It isn’t in spite of Trump. It’s because of him and his awful followers. Everyone is going out of their way to prove him wrong. Everyone want to prove that they aren’t part of his toxic view.”
I think she’s right.
And I love it.