I recently got married. Our wedding day was a very special day for many reasons; including how fortunate I am to now be married to such a remarkable woman. Our wedding was an intimate gathering in a small city in the Midwest, surrounded only by our closest loved ones; it was a day I will never forget.
As I look back on that day, I consider the current cultural shifts in America and I wonder: How many people would actually consider our wedding to be very un-American?
During the planning process, my (now) wife and I decided to invite just our families for a private gathering; something simple, something small. But the thing about my ‘family’ is that it includes my biological family and also my equally significant family of neighbors who come from places like Iraq and Somalia.
In fact, it was the latter family members who generously prepared all the amazing food that was served at our wedding gathering. This included some of my favorite foods like Dolma, Biryani, Somali Spice Rice, Goat and even Basboosa for desert.
Following the ceremony, and before the meal began, I asked for the attention of the room so that I could express my gratitude to everyone for being part of our special day. My dear friend Mohamed even tapped me on the shoulder and politely reminded me to pray before the meal like I usually do. As I spoke, I looked around and I couldn’t help but snap a mental picture of the beautiful and amazing family that I have been blessed with.
Now that a few days have passed and I’ve had some time to reflect, that joyful mental picture also invokes a sense of sorrow.
You see the family of neighbors that I described has many differences. We are American, Iraqi, Canadian, Somali, Christian, Muslim, Secular, Shia, Sunni, Catholic, Methodist and more. We have different color skin, we speak different languages and we have different accents. Yet we are one. Some of us are first generation immigrants and refugees and some of our families migrated to America many generations ago.
The sorrow that now accompanies this joyful memory is in part due to American culture increasing in the belief that these differences make a family like ours seem impossible.
The sorrow comes from how some political and religious leaders are promoting an atmosphere that embraces fear and attempts to create division among neighbors like us.
The sorrow grows when I am reminded that this beautiful family was built by embracing the way of Loving each other as neighbors, yet so many Americans have been quick to abandon and discard this timeless and meaningful teaching. It’s as if building a community around the uniqueness of each other as neighbors, much like our immigrant forefathers did, has somehow become un-American, maybe even anti-American?
Regardless of how our amazing day might be viewed, I am incredibly thankful for the beautifully unique family and community my wife and I have. I am grateful that love continues to unite neighbors with such different backgrounds, even if that will be considered un-American by some.