I had an interesting conversation with the young man who does my nails every month. “Tony” is from Vietnam. He came here with his family when he was sixteen, and he is almost twenty-one now. His parents immigrated so their seven children could have an education and be able to live above the poverty level of their country.
I commented on how well he spoke English and asked him if he took English as a second language course. He said he learned to speak English by going to High School and when he graduated and started working at his parents nail salon, he spoke with all his clients and much as he could. Many were kind enough to help him with his pronunciation and how to speak sentences correctly.
I asked him if he liked living in the United States and opened a flood gate about the US. He said that it was everyone’s dream to come to America. In Vietnam there was no freedom. Only the wealthy government people had enough food and money. In his home village few made it past what we would call middle school because it was so expensive to send children to school. The government determined who could and could not move forward. Everything was controlled by the government, including what a person would do for a living. There is a class system and if you are born in one class, you will grow old and die in that class. Tony took a deep breath.
In the US we are free. I can become anything I wish to become and there is no one saying I can’t be successful. If I work hard and study hard, I can learn anything. It is such a blessing to have freedom. I can say what I want without the police coming to put me in jail and my entire family for not thinking right. I am equal to everyone. He paused. I will be more equal once I am a citizen of the US. I will take my exam soon and hope to become a citizen before America votes in the next election. I have saved all the money for everything. I was a bit taken aback by his fervent desire to become a citizen.
I asked him why he wanted it to be before the election. He carefully looked over his shoulder and leaned closer to me. Then he really surprised me when spoke just above a whisper. “I want, he said, to vote for my hero, President Trump.” I smiled, because I am a Trump fan too.
I asked him what he liked about the President. H had a list of things he found admirable about President Trump. He said that the President didn’t just say what was popular, he spoke the truth. That when he made a promise to do something, he did it, and he didn’t do it for fame, he did it for the betterment of the entire country. He like the President because he spoke honest words, not fancy words designed to impress fancy people. He was a business man who understood money and how finance worked and he would always get the best outcome for the United States no matter who he had to deal with. He like the fact that the President wasn’t afraid to be wrong and admit it, but he wasn’t often wrong. Tony said. “Vietnamese people are loud and rude according to American ways, but the President speaks like we do.. We understand him.” I want to vote for him as one of the first things I do as an US citizen. I think my jaw gaped open, and I know I had tears in my eyes.
I asked him if his family felt the same way and he nodded, then he said,”All the people in my community feel the same. We admire and appreciate the President. We are so grateful for the Immigration that brought us out of poverty and gave us opportunity to be free to do what we want in life.” What else could I say other than I hoped he got his wish. The subject changed to every day topics, but I left there feeling as if I had been given a lesson in what America was all about. Freedom, independence, hard work, family, belief in the individual, and determination to become better than the last generation. That amazing young man is the exact kind of person we need to stand for the Constitution, the kind of man who is much like the original immigrants who came over on leaky wooden boats like the Mayflower. I was worried about the country’s future, but between young people like Tony and the young people I see here in Indian Country who blatantly wear their MAGA hats and rebel flag t-shirts, I think we just might make it as the country the founders meant us to be. As Tony said, “It is an honor to say, I am an American.” We often forget that.