Outside of the law school, where I taught for many decades, each morning there was one of those short aluminum food carts that sold the right type of softy bagels and large containers of great tasting coffee. I would buy my fix as I entered the building early each day of my work life. Now, today in retrospect, I should not have bought my bagel from him. Nor the coffee.
Why, you ask? My reasoning today is that I should have mounted a protest and picketed his stand until I drove him into oblivion. How dare he sell bagels, let alone good Columbian roasted coffee? Was he welcoming each morning? Was he polite to my sleepy mumblings? Were his prices appropriate? Did I get the right change each morning? Yes, yes and yes.
So why my seemingly incoherent and inappropriate rant? My tongue-in-cheek answer is: “He was from Egypt!—Look at him– He is an Arab. Racist! “– you say! Me? A racist? And why these thoughts in a Commentary devoted to security and counterterrorism issues. Obviously, how we view and treat our neighbor is part of our national security, and we presently are witnessing the rise of what I view is a dangerous “Portland” syndrome: a clash between cultural correctness and National security. Let me explain.
We live in a dangerous world. And that danger grows exponentially. “Manchesters” are akin to wildfires. Where next? How to respond? How do I protect my family? Must I point a finger of blame? Should I point a finger of blame? There is a group of American billionaires who have purchased tracts of deserted land and abandoned military missile silos only to spend millions of dollars more to transform them into homes—self-contained shelters—so that when disaster strikes this country, they will be safe and secure. I live in a high rise apartment building, and periodically our children council us to have gallon jugs of water on hand– “just in case”. Just in case of what? And all they do is roll their eyes at me.
Now, in Portland they understand what diversity means. Portland would like you to revert to segregation. Maybe that’s an overstatement. What a group of socially misguided so called activists believe and have been able to enforce (pathetic) is that white people should cook white food and only those with an appropriate cultural-DNA attachment can be allowed to cook food of their “ own culture”. Two white women set out to learn how to cook the best Mexican food possible. They picked the brains of as many Mexican women who would talk to them. And in time they assembled what they believed to be the best of the best of Mexican cooking. Then the cultural food Gestapo stepped in and closed them down. They were co-opting the culture of others and for profit, no less! They were white; white people do not cook Mexican food for public consumption.
Both sides of my ancestral chain come from the Ukraine and both sides cook an eastern European “Jewish” pot-roast. Trust me, they don’t cook it the same way in Naples. My wife can trace her linage to the 1400s, and they never made pot-roast from the Ukraine. My wife’s pot roast, learned at my Ukraine mother’s side, leaves my mother’s version in the dust. Why—my wife took the recipe (and I am keeping that secret) one step further.
I fear now that the Portland food segregators will descend upon our New York City apartment and demand my wife stop cooking her pot roast. I fear now that what MLK fought for, what all civil rights activists died for, is being buried in regression. We condemn white police for shooting black people. We demand more integration in our local law enforcement, greater education, greater understanding of the culture of others so that we can understand and accept the norms of others. Understand: This is all part of national security. Nothing less. The further away we push our neighbor, the less secure we are.
I spend most of my waking day reading and researching issue that I believe is necessary for us to understand the world we inhabit. The word “world” has different definitions for me depending upon the context of their use. “World” could be the apartment house where I live, or a city, or even the globe we spin on our desk. “World” can also be a neighborhood and, this is where I return to my “bagel guy”.
Trump doesn’t want to let the “bad dudes” in, ICE wants to throw everybody out, sanctuary cities want to let everyone hide– and then there is me.
The thing I love about my country is I don’t have to travel too far to see and feel and –most important – eat all things that are found in some faraway-distant land. It’s all here; we can all participate; we can even try to make some of these foreign “things” ourselves.
Think about it~~ these opportunities strengthen our security not diminish it. How marvelous it is that we can have at one moment both the commingled and separated segments of the lives’ of others absorbed in all aspects of our own daily life. This cultural embrace not only enriches us but binds us together, providing not only a perceived ‘sense’ of secure but real fact-based security. It is called–National Security.