On a beautiful winter day in Los Angeles, I pedaled my bicycle across town to the Pacific Ocean, stopping along the way to check out the sights and sounds. I live-streamed the journey (you can hear me talking to people on the broadcast, answering their questions. Here’s how the day went.
If your car starts making a pinging and a grinding sound every time you accelerate, and you know something is definitely wrong and could become worse, would you ask your neighbor who has been a mechanic for 10 years to take a look at it, or would you ask your other neighbor who is a brain surgeon to look at it?
Now it doesn’t mean that your brain surgeon neighbor isn’t extremely intelligent, but there is a good chance that he knows nothing about cars. So naturally, we would want to take advice from someone who may know more about the subject at hand. Make sense? Ok…follow me now…
As someone who has had the good fortune to travel and meet people from around the world, I would venture to say that a large majority of my inner circle of friends are from other countries. I can assure you citizens from around the world have to jump through many hoops, just to obtain a visitors visa, and even more hoops for a temporary or permanent residency. The cost alone is prohibitive for millions of people who would love to visit our beautiful country. In order to even apply for a visa, there is usually a large application fee ranging from $300 and up, and if their application is denied, which most of them are, that money is non-refundable, and the applicant knows that upfront, which deters many from even applying.
The U.S. government does not have a policy of “do you want to come live here in the land of opportunity? You do? Well then come on in.” There has always been a lengthy vetting process, which explains our many years without an organized terrorist attack. And…the “what about San Bernadino” examples are blown WAY out of proportion. There are people murdered every day in America, by Americans. There always has been and there always will be. Letting someone buy a gun who has had an extensive background check does not guarantee that this person won’t at some time in the future decide to take the lives of others (regardless of where they are from) and we’ve seen this time and time again. Neither will extreme vetting. Ask yourself this: If a recent immigrant from Israel shot up a mall, do you think for one second that Israel would fall into this ban? You know they wouldn’t. Nor would Spain, or Italy, or Germany, or France. Why? Because every day when Americans kill other Americans, we don’t stop and say “OK…what is this guys heritage? Where is he from? Let’s add his country of origin to the list. The media on both sides of the aisle cherry pick examples for their side.
Rob chilling in Brazil in 2016
I hear all of the time “if these people are going to come to our country and live in our country, they need to learn the goddamn language.” I used to say that myself when I was younger. It’s amazing how world travel is such a wonderful educational experience. Over 8 million American non military citizens live outside of the United States. And yes, they live in Iran, and Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Yemen. But we don’t call them immigrants, we call them “expatriates” or “expats”.
Here is what I know about expats: They tend to live in areas of a foreign city with other expats (just like foreigners do here in the U.S.) And if they wore jeans with holes in them, flip flops, and tank tops here in the U.S., that’s exactly what they wear in the country that they are living. They don’t change how they dress or try to conform to that countries attire. And while some of them take the time to learn the language of the country they are living, many do not, because they are surrounded in a community of English-speaking expats, so there is no real need to learn that language (sound familiar?).
Maybe they are just too old to want to learn another language. Maybe they tried and they’re just not quick at picking up a second language. So if Americans are allowed to dress the way they always have, pray the way they always have, speak the language they always have while living in these other countries, why do we insist that immigrants living in our communities change these things? These countries are not intimidated about allowing Americans to live in their communities…fearing that their people will begin wearing holes in their jeans etc… We think it’s so cool that Europeans speak multiple languages, but cry at the thought of learning a second language in our own country. Europeans learn multiple languages so they can communicate easily with their neighboring countries and members from those countries living and working in their country, as so they can go and work and live in those neighboring countries.
I have many Muslim friends, so let me tell you a little bit about them. They love to drink coffee in the mornings just like we do. They like to watch Big Bang Theory just like we do. They get excited over a BOGO just like we do. They like to go to the beach just like we do. They love to go to the movie theater just like we do. They love to take their families to the park just like we do. They cram for their exams just like we do. They love to scroll through Facebook and upload photos of their dinner just like we do. They love to drink craft beers just like we do. They get sad when they see wrong in the world, just like we do. And here’s another thing – they get angry and upset with terrorist activities – anywhere in the world, just like we do. I’ve lived with Muslims, I’ve drank with them, I’ve worked with them, I’ve traveled with them. They are not trying to change us or our way of life.
I feel pretty confident that those Americans who feel so strong about keeping them out of our country have never had a Muslim friend or even as much as had a conversation with one, and have never seen a visa application to enter the U.S., or the extreme lines at our airports at customs and immigration as visitors from around the world are interrogated for sometimes hours as they enter our country, and fall victim to the unrealistic fear that they are here and determined to change our way of life, when nothing could be further from the truth.
So take it from someone who knows a little about the subject matter. Take a little time to educate yourself, and those around you. Both side of the political aisle play us against each other…but knowledge is power, and the truth will set you free.
It was a lovely day in April, so why not go get lost in the seemingly unending network of hutongs – the traditional Chinese neighborhoods – in Beijing, China. As I strolled through these labyrinths of narrow streets and alleys with their hidden courtyards surrounded by apartments, it was evident that food was central to life here. No need to travel far eat. On just about every street corner in this neighborhood, there was cooking on the streets, even at restaurants, the kitchens were essentially outside, enticing would-be diners.
Here, fried dough and steam buns stuffed with pork and spices. Like so many places around the world, China is all about food. Eating is central to everything families do, an activity that bonds people. “Family style” eating has been part of Chinese culture for centuries. Lots of dishes come out and everybody shares.