Our greatest fear is that we are afraid…

I just read an article on the BBC Online where a Jewish man’s prayer items triggered  a bomb scare, forcing the plane to land in Philadelphia.  He was not arrested and the plane landed just fine.

A few months ago, a Latina grandmother was asked to unboard a plane after she politely asked the flight attendant for an extra 2 minutes to finish prayer her rosary. It was her first time on a plane and she was going to visit her pregnant grand daughter.  Without giving her a chance to reconsider, the flight attendant called security, who rushed the plane, escorted the soon-to-be great grandmother off the plane to a holding room.  She missed her flight and a chance to be with her family.  Though charges were filed, they were eventually dismissed.

Is this religious discrimination? Or have we reached a point where the safest mode of transportation — still is, by the way, despite the many terror threats — is becoming the worst without foundation?  I’m not suggesting a person of the Jewish faith lighting a menorah in the middle of the aisle won’t get arrested or charged with threatening to blow up a plane.  What I am wondering is if we have in essence reached a point in our lives where even a great-grandmother and an Orthodox Jew should be seen with great timidity? We already feel uneasy around someone who we stereotypically identify as Muslim.  That is an unfortunately reality.  It’s not right. But it’s what people do when they are afraid of what they are told to be a known fact by the media.

So the question remains, what are we so afraid of?

Remembering Mr. Salcedo

There comes a time when I am everso proud of being Mexican, of being a member of a community and people who have preferred to “die on their feet than live on their knees”, as Emiliano Zapata once said.  But on New Year’s Eve, my heart sank at the news that Roberto Salcedo, a ferverent immigrant rights activist was murdered execution style in the Mexican state of Sonora.  According to news reports, a group of gunmen entered a restaurant where Mr. Salcedo was having dinner with his wife and several of his former high school friends and at gunpoint, forced him out.  His body and that of his friends were found riddled with bullets to the torso and head.
For years, I have wanted to return to Mexico to visit friends and to work on films but I have chosen not to for fear that I too could become a victim of a senseless murder.  Friends living in Mexico and news reporters on both sides of the border say that the victims of these senseless killings are not innocent, that most of them are involved in drugs, often times owing money to dealers.  Really?  I don’t know the friends of Mr. Salcedo.  But if the Mexican proverb, “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres” (tell me about the company you keep and I will tell you the type of person that you are) is at all correct, then I believe the friends Mr. Salcedo was meeting with that day were just like him.  They must have been loving family members, teachers and activists, because that was exactly the type of person that he was.  He was loved.  And in a world where motives are always questioned, his deeds never were.  Anyone who knew Mr. Salcedo saw in him a selfless advocate for social change, a man who always put the interests of others before his own, something he surely learned from his own parents.
I knew Mr. Salcedo, and I can state with great certainty that his passing could not have come at a worse time.  As selfish as that sounds, we still needed him to finish what he started.  Through his hard work and dedication, he ignited a flame of hope for those undocumented students who did not receive the support they deserved to dream bigger.  He made it possible for them to believe in themselves and in a strange way, in fellow man, even though many tried desperately to limit their access to higher education.  Those of us who knew him and those of us impacted by his deeds must now carry on with his work, always reminding those we serve that Mr. Salcedo’s work and example continues to live in each and every one of us.  We must never forget what he started, but we must finish it.
My heart aches for his family, especially a good friend of mine who turns out was related to him.  Nothing we can say or do will ever bring him back.  His life was taken, but his spirit remains in us.  No ‘narco’, ‘zeta’ or corrupt official will ever take that from us because I and those who knew him will not let them.

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