The Immigrant and Satchel

The image of the immigrant is not something that I necessarily embraced as a young person. The person doesn’t seem particularly American, or athletic. He appears foreign. When I saw pictures of Jewish people in books they often looked  like the immigrant, and to some extent I resented the image.
As I got older I started to appreciate the sacrifices that people had made in Europe to practice their religion, and maintain their culture. That it took courage to persevere in the face of discrimination, and intolerance. To dress in a certain way; even though it’s singles you out.
Nevertheless, it’s somewhat ironic that of all the images on the murals the immigrant came out the biggest. When the drawings were made, and I noticed this, I had to smile, because I knew my own history and evolution on the subject.
I will say that I’m very proud to be from my little small steel town in western Pennsylvania. That said, at that time, it was an extremely racist area. By the time I was in junior high I knew how most people felt about Jews and blacks. I didn’t see real ethnic and religious hatred until the campaign of Kennedy and Nixon. The fistfights and name-calling every day on the bus between the Catholics, and other Christian denominations amazed me. At that time I had no idea about the history of Henry VIII, the Reformation, or the troubles in Ireland. All I heard was that Kennedy was a papist and if he won the election the country was going  to be run from the Vatican.
There may be some innate tendency in human beings to dislike what is different, or to recoil from it, whether it’s skin color, accent, clothing,etc, but the hatred and the passion has to be instilled; often by the parents, but sometimes by peers. So on this issue, I would have to say that nurture is much more important than nature.
The immigrant that is coming to America has a Bible in his right arm, and the Satchel being carried in his left. The Satchel has a menorah in it. I use this image to highlight a  point. Although the Jewish people have a long and sacred attachment to the land of Israel, the truth is that with the Bible and the Talmud, Jewish tradition and culture can be transported, or deported, anywhere and survive. This is in contrast to the problem the Native Americans faced. Their culture was closely intertwined with their ancestral lands , the animals, and the seasons. For the Indians that survived, and  were relocated on the reservation, most  of the elements on which their culture depended were gone. A disorienting experience that poses many problems that have yet to be adequately addressed .
On the on the right side of this Satchel is a horse trophy. Four close friends  spent most of their money, and several nights at the county fair one year. Winning this trophy was important to us, and gave us satisfaction to win it together. We lived on a small country street, and spent most summers together . We explored  the woods, played ball from sun up to sun down, camped out, and competed at everything . Like the movie said you never have friends like you had when you were 12 years old.
The image to the left shows a father consoling his son, and a broken white stick at their feet. The white stick had been whittled, sanded, and become almost a personal totem. A band of”big kids”had conspired to break the stick, and got away with it.
The tall building is the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. It was built during the depression, and is the symbol of the University. We have had three generations of our family attend the University.
The football represents our love of sports, sports we  play, and of course Pittsburgh sports. Pittsburgh is one of the best American cities to live in. It has great universities, medical center, art,culture,and a sense of community, that is  enhanced by people’s passion for Pittsburgh teams.


The Immigrant and Satchel — 1 Comment

  1. One of my favorite exhibits at the Carnegie Institute Museum was the one on racial differences and similarities, showing that humans are all one. It helped me a lot in coming to terms with my racial histories and with the cultures surrounding me: the Cuban family next door (Mr. Coto was the blackest person I had ever seen) , the German refugee family across the street, the Sicilians who looked like me and were my best friends until an adult made a mess. Mrs. Horowitz who sent matzoh ball soup and schmaltz to this pale, skinny, sickly child. I remember Our Lady of Mt. Carmel day with the parade and the fireworks, the Memorial Day parade with veterans from WEI an WW II and the American Legion drum and bugle corps. All that added to the museum exhibit helped me to embrace the beautiful variety of God’s people and the variety of their cultures and traditions.

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