I asked him how long he had been in the US. He answered 2 years. I then said to him, “I’d like to ask you a question, and please feel free to not answer.” He replied, “It’s ok. I will answer your question.” “Okay, you promised,” I said “just don’t change your mind later.” I then asked him WHY he came here. He was likely surprised that this was not a very intrusive question, given my initial comment. He replied, smiling, “I came here for better opportunities.” I wasn’t going to let him get away with such an easy answer, which was my intent from the beginning.
I then asked him, “Why did you think you would have better opportunities here? What was life like where you came from? What was everyday like for you in your country?” He began to tell me what life was like for him, growing up in East Africa. His first words were, “There is no Liberty.” (My heart smiled, He knows about Liberty!)
I asked, “How so?” He explained, “The government is in every aspect of your life, every day, and every minute. I always tell people that I came here for better opportunities because it is the easy thing to say. I don’t like to talk about the reasons.” I thought that was going to be the end of our conversation, but he continued.
“I did really well in school.” He said. “In our school we did not get grades like here, not A or B, but rank. How you did in school was not based on your performance, but based upon how you compared to other students. I always ranked 2 or 3 in my class. Even so, I could do nothing unless the government let me. If I had been here I could have done something. Instead, the government took me at 16 and made me serve in the Army. Everyone has to serve two years, but most don’t go until they are 18. But for me they took me at 16, I don’t know why. I served my two years and left the Army. They tried to get me to stay with promises- after two years it is voluntary- but I didn’t want to stay, I wanted to get out.”
I asked him why did he want to leave the Army? Didn’t they take good care of him, a place to live and food to eat? He replied, “A house and food was not a problem. We don’t have a famine where I am from. We have what we need in the urban areas. It is not the food that is the problem. It is the government that never lets you LIVE that is the problem. You cannot live your life because the government is in your life every day. I want to be an engineer, I want to go to college. I had to leave that government to LIVE.”
I then asked him, “Do you like being here? Are you happy?” He said, “Oh, Yes!, But…” My brow furrows, surprised at the “but”. He continued, “But I see people I know, people who don’t know their rights, it makes me want to know my rights. I came here for Liberty, but I don’t know what is allowed here. I got stopped by police the other day. It was a random stop. I didn’t break any laws. The police asked me for my ID. I thought at the time, do I have to answer his question? I didn’t know the answer to that question and it bothered me. I didn’t know that I could’ve asked him if I am being detained. I didn’t know that if I was not being detained I didn’t have to talk to him. I didn’t know this so I just did what he said. But I know now. I looked it up on the internet. I won’t let that happen to me again.” He then explained that he has been studying the Constitution and his rights in America. At this point I tell him who I am and what I do.
We had a great conversation. We were so involved in our discussion that he missed the exit for my hotel twice! I didn’t mind, our spirits were communing. I told him about my website and all the resources on it. He asked me to put my website into his phone. When he handed me his phone I got my final surprise. When I opened the browser on his phone, I saw that his last google search was on…
The Gadsden Flag!
I knew in my heart that this young man gets it!
When I travel and teach it is quite often the immigrants that come to me distressed and in tears; weeping over this nation. They came here to escape the very thing they see happening before their eyes.
America- if we cannot define Liberty, we cannot defend it. If we cannot define tyranny, we cannot defeat it.
If you wish to be ignorant and free, you wish for what never was and never will be.