So, last week we got a notice over email at work. The guy in the deli downstairs has passed all the tests and become a American citizen. I've only been on this job for two months, and I only barely know deli guy. I've heard his name, but did not retain it, though I wouldn't use it on the blog anyway out of concern for the man's privacy. I'm sure he doesn't know my name either.
According to the email, he's your classic American immigrant success story. He was really poor when he came here from Pakistan, where he wasn't allowed to get an education because he is bahai. He worked his way through school, got an education and now he runs a deli. Now, I wouldn't want to run a deli, but I'm pretty sure that running a deli sucks less than whatever job you end up with in Pakistan when you're the wrong religion and you don't have an education.
Anyway, the owners of my office building are throwing the deli guy a party this afternoon and we were invited to bring him a small gift that said something about America, symobolized how we saw America or some such.
I'm actually quite patriotic. I know our country has done a lot of bad things, but I don't know any country that has achieved much that hasn't. And we have achieved a lot. The idea of deli guy wanting to be an American enough to go through the difficult process of becoming one stirs me a bit. I almost get misty-eyed when I think about him sitting down to take that Citizenship test. This guy played by the rules in a way that would make Tom Tancredo blush. I don't doubt he will be a credit to my country.
In the end, I did an informal survey and nobody I work with got this guy a symbolic gift. So if the rest of my firm is showing up empty handed I guess it's no crime that I will, too.
I just couldn't think of anything that seemed right.
Well, I considered getting him five dollars in McDonald's coupons because in America, everybody's out for a free lunch, but sarcasm didn't seem appropriate to the occasion.
But deli guy isn't going anywhere. I could always bring him something a little late.
Anyone have an idea for a symbol of unironic appreciation for our country?
I'm still thinking about it.
I'm trying to think about what best symbolizes "The American Dream" but the best I can provide, like you, is something snarky because I've come to associate it with a myth rather than a reality.
I would have chose a welcome mat for his home, or his deli.
How about a nicely scripted quote:
"These states are the amplest poem,
Here is not merely a nation but a teeming Nation of nations,
Here the doings of men correspond with the broadcast doings
of the day and night,
Here is what moves in magnificent masses careless of particulars,
...Here the flowing trains, here the crowds, equality, diversity, the soul loves."
- Walt Whitman Passage form "By Blue Ontario Shore" Leaves of Grass
or, my favorite:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
- The Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776
How about a flag pin?
I like Tiana's idea. If you have a couple co-workers go in with you, you could get him a DVD of the musical 1776 -- I think it's particularly appropriate for an immigrant settling near Washington, DC.
Since he and his family will a long time to absorb the American version of the English language, I suggest that you give him a book that portrays it well, The New Oxford American Dictionary
(2nd ed. 2005). Get four other people to share the price.
I'm gonna cry.
I'd be tempted to get him a CD of traditional American music. The Smithsonian has some good choices.
I've asked your question at my blog.
How about pocket-sized paperback copy of the US Constitution? Or a paperback copy of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution. Both are available on Amazon.com.
The US citizenship oath says that one will " ... support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies" and a personal copy that he could carry with him would be a fitting gift.
The snark that dwells deep within me says a framed portrait of George W Bush.
The agitator in me says Zinn's "A People's History of the United States."
But ultimately, I'd suggest you offer your congratulations and invite the guy and his family over for dinner.
A subscription to Scientific American. Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner. TIckets to a baseball game. A favorite book of science fiction by an American author - Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury are very approachable. A plate of barbeque.
a gift certificate for a pancake breakfast.
An American flag with 50 different religious symbols in place of the stars.
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