2008. I remember Bill telling me these words: Go back to your country.
I had been in America for about 2 years. I came… well I’m not gonna tell you how I got here right now, but my big brother, my only brother came to this country on a religious visa.
My brother Manuel always loved computers. We had our first IBM in the mid 80’s. He had a collection of floppy discs with different games, do you remember Digger? He loved taking appliances and devices apart to see their components. He would build motorized spotlights for his room as a young boy and eventually He ended up pursuing a computer systems engineering career.
When he lived here in America he started a new hobby, before Drones and electrical anything, there were these typically wooden RC Airplanes that run on gasoline. It looked like so much fun and the people flying them probably felt like they were real pilots behind a jet.
In fact, do you guys remember the 2004 movie Flight of the Phoenix? when Elliot (Giovanni Ribisi) helps build the escape airplane and they all trust him, until later on he reveals he builds model airplanes.
Flying an aircraft with gasoline required a whole process of acquiring a license and it had designated places where you could do it. In fact the regulations where so strict that my brother ended up getting a few “electric” airplanes because the spots to fly those were a little bit broader. One of those spots was at Fairview Park in Costa Mesa, CA. This overlook of the Santa Ana River. So that’s where we were that day.
This day become so memorable, I was even recording it for my hobby of making videos!
Some people were so friendly, there were experts on airplanes sharing with Manuel and his brother in law the dynamics of wings and propulsion.
I don’t know where your family is from. We are from Mexico and Spanish is our mother tongue. That day I was saying something to Manuel, something banal and trivial when Bill sitting close to me heard me speaking Spanish for long enough time that at this point he was probably boiling inside and as I sat next to my mom we heard his voice yelling: “speak english”.
I don’t think I realized Bill was referring to me until my mom started replying back to him and then he said “Go back to your country” to what this woman I love said “This is my country” and then I remember Bill asking “But are you a citizen of it?” Oops, you got me there!
AND HE DID
I will tell you my mom’s story on another day. Let’s go back to this beautiful Saturday morning. The mountains in the far background covered with snow. The wild grass and the ground muddy from the recent rain. My first niece running around getting her brand new shoes dirty.
I had no idea what the future held for us. I had no idea that in a few weeks from that day my brother was going to be detained for a month and deported. I didn’t know that was the last year I was going to see him face to face. I didn’t know he was going to miss my wedding with my first-ever girlfriend. I didn’t know he was not going to be around to see his nephews grow. I didn’t know I was going to burst into tears when my son at 5 years old would ask me how come my brother was not around. And I’m glad I didn’t know because only hope pushed me forward, as If It would be only a matter of filling out some forms and figuring out a way to bring him back. As if I would become a citizen of this country and be able to travel abroad freely sooner than later.
I didn’t know! That’s why before we left the park, as much as I felt discomfort and self-righteousness, I felt obliged to walk over to this man and say in my even more broken english I had back then “I’m sorry for speaking Spanish, I’m going to try and speak English more often”. It seems somewhere along the road he had heard the following quote before, because I never mentioned it to him.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dears friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Romans 12:17-21
The old man was wearing a buttoned-up shirt with an embroidered badge that read “Bill”. After my apology, he grumpily mumbled “Now you are going to tell me Love your enemies”. Some family around him were trying to ease things up and rebuked him. And that’s when I learned what “burning coals on his head” meant.
We went back to our home in Santa Ana and the following morning I wrote a song named “A mi enemigo”.
Yesterday I had the freedom of my nation
Yesterday I confronted my enemies
Yesterday they tried to intimidate my dreams
And to their resentment I will repay without curse
For to avenge is to repay evil with evil. That war is never going to end. I will overcome evil with good. I will overcome evil with good and I will seek for peace.
My pride is not in a flag
My pride is to maintain peace
Even when their words hurt. My vengeance will be to love, my vengeance will be to love.
For to avenge is to repay evil with evil. That war is never going to end. I will overcome evil with good. I will avenge evil with good and I will seek for peace.