Admitting Our Mistakes

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Is not easy.
It’s coming to terms with our fallibility, with our imperfections.
Though most of us, in our more enlightened moments, will acknowledge that we’re flawed, in day to day life our unconscious is likely to trick us, leading us to believe that we don’t have any such flaws and if we do, they’re minor.
It takes a determined effort to remind ourselves that whatever our flaws, they are always around the corner, ready to pounce.
Thus, the importance of interaction, being open to other ideas and to criticism.
No one likes being criticized but those who are open to it march a step ahead.
Still, some things we just don’t see.
I’m reminded of walking down a supermarket aisle with a small child.
I’m more likely to see those items on shelves at my eye level. The child, on the other hand, having a different field of vision, will more easily spot things on the lower shelves.
Admitting to our mistakes can be so difficult, that some people would rather keep building on a faulty foundation than to be open about it and scrap or modify the original idea.
Any project that goes awry has had design flaws that some of the creators didn’t pause enough to properly analyze.
So they cover up and cover up and cover up.
We can’t get away with it.
We become better human beings when we are open to admitting our mistakes as soon as possible. Life rewards us for being honest with ourselves.
To say, ‘I’m not good at that, or that either. He/she are better at it,’ takes a measure of courage. But it’s easier to say to ourselves, ‘they got the job because they know somebody,’
which, in our complicated world, may sometimes be true.
Being fully honest with ourselves opens new paths we hadn’t thought of.
In structured settings, be they business or governmental, confronting flaws can be so difficult that the admission of it led to the whistleblower concept. A legal clause protecting those willing to tell the truth in exchange for a monetary reward.
Hiding the truth is in every human activity.
In politics it is rampant and sometimes deadly.
Putin has gone to war with Ukraine after building an edifice of lies that no one around dared question. Thousands of lives have been lost and more will follow.
Those who heard the lies first were unwilling to challenge them. So something started to rot.
Has been rotting for years.
Inside of China, too, as exemplified in the Communist party saying to the Chinese, ‘We have all the ideas needed for us to become the greatest nation on earth. Just trust us. We lead, you follow.’
They’ve been down that road for a while and we’re smelling the stench. It comes from the repression in Hong Kong, from the suffering of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, the suffocating quarantines in the management of Covid.
Democracy has many flaws and often harbors autocrats that must be smoked out, but it creates the conditions for the open interplay of ideas.
Closed systems, like the Russian and Chinese, or any other dictatorship, rot slowly.
It’s happened since our history started.
The French kings didn’t listen to the common man until it was too late and heads rolled.
Today’s kings – Putin and Xi – who are causing or supporting so much cruelty, also believe that they own the truth and so they trample on freedom of speech.
Show me a country where freedom of speech is censored and we can point to a country where human rot is growing.
Science has something to teach us to prevent such rot. In science, a person comes up with an idea to solve a particular problem, then someone else tests it to make sure it is good. Then another person does the same, validating the proposed solution.
That is freedom at work.
Of course, some issues may need decisions that cannot wait, but many issues should use more rigor to find the better solutions.
To avoid the lies. To avoid the waste. To avoid the failure. To avoid the rot.

Immigration and American Political Discord

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Immigration is at the core of our political antagonism but we’re not confronting the issue in a way that aims to resolve the matter.

There are several key themes to which we have not fully applied our ingenuity and thus linger partly unresolved. These themes are inequality, racism and immigration. Address those in a comprehensive manner and we will move up to be at the vanguard of nations.

Hard to believe, isn’t, that we are not there now.

And it is not for lack of talent, but for lack of leadership willing to commit to the task.

It has been hard for the white majority in this country, to accept that immigration has become essential for the nation to move forward. Hard for the white majority of this country to recognize that they cannot – cannot – move forward this country without immigrants.

Self serving politicians will tell you that they can make America great without the input of immigrants.

But it cannot be done.

Demography speaks loudly.

Without immigrants we would not have the numbers of people or the depth of talent to combine into the productive capacity required to move the nation forward.

Immigrants from all over the world have come to our shores and begun to make their contributions. We need to keep those doors open.

Their children, those born here – the second generation immigrants – soak up all that is part of being an American. And they do so eagerly, competing with all they have to be the best they can be because it is in their nature to do so. Like their parents, they know, deep in their hearts, what it is to get a second chance.

Immigrants are grateful to this land. And once here they connect with the essence of what is being an American.

And that essence is the right to be free.

And with being free you have the right to bow to no one.

But immigrants will say ‘thank you’ to whomever, no matter what their color, if those people have put effort into adding value to this great land that has opened the doors for them. To those, gratitude is owed. Always.

The not bowing to anyone is a fundamental American right.

Have you ever seen in the Olympic games when the delegations of every country parade and come in front of the grandstands where the big wigs sit? Have you seen how nearly all countries tip their flag in deference to them?

Well, the American delegation does not.

And that same spirit is embodied in those who become American. We do not bow. We don’t do that.

It has been hard for a section of the white majority in this country to accept that our land is changing. And change will continue for it is inevitable.

Nature, in its infinite wisdom, spreads its gifts widely, across all ethnic groups of this earth.

By keeping our borders open, in compliance with our laws, we allow all kinds of talent to come to this land and because of it we have the richness that we have.

The new immigrants challenge us all, challenge us to be the best we can be. They bring new energies, new ways of doing things, fresh perspectives.

Today, a good number of major corporations are headed by first or second generation immigrants. Microsoft, Google, Adobe, Tesla are in that category.

Lamentably, there are politicians in our midst who stir up animosity against the new arrivals. Instead of helping the native, who has fallen behind, to better understand the importance of immigration, they stir up antiimmigrant sentiment because it is easy to do so.

‘Look, they’re different than you, what are they doing here? They are taking what is yours.’

Rather than to help them understand the many reasons why they’re so angry.

‘Look – the responsible leader could say as they address the resentful American – your life’s task, like it is for all of us, is to be the best you can be, but the immigrant coming in may be more creative, more daring, more imaginative than you are. So why get angry at them when they may be making contributions to your land?’

‘I was here before,’ may be an American’s reply.

But is that enough? Think about it.

The nation, your country, owes it to you, to have opportunities to develop. And you may have had such opportunities and not taken advantage of them, or maybe you didn’t have the opportunities, in which case you have grounds to complain and demand you’re given such chances.

But the nation cannot wait. The nation’s productive capacity has to keep pace with the rest of the world for otherwise we fall behind. Any reforms required have to be made as we continue to move forward, and as of this time, part of the precious energy helping propel us forward comes from the immigrant engine.

Someone with antiimmigrant views may ask, ‘look at the Chinese, look at how fast they’ve risen, and they don’t have any immigrants. Why can’t we do the same?’

First – the Chinese, at 1.4 billion people – roughly three times our population, have a vaster genetic pool than we do. Thus, greater variety of talents. But they, too, have had migrations from neighboring countries over the centuries.

Second – the Chinese are enjoying the benefits of a significant transfer of knowledge from the West, since emerging from their isolation during the leadership of Deng Xiaoping.  

This new strength of the Chinese, who now have become a formidable rival to the West, should be reason enough for America to further open its doors to immigrants the world over.

To erect barriers to immigration at this juncture, would be to deny ourselves the huge possibilities of enriching our genetic pool.

What is required of American leaders at this time, is a commitment to confront the nativist sentiment. Confront to enlighten. This moment calls for leaders willing to engage and willing to work through whatever the resistances, so truth is accepted.

If we have such leaders, then we will move further on our path to bridge our differences.

If not, we will lose valuable time and set the stage for making mistakes that will dim the nation’s possibilities.

Oscar valdes.

Xi Replies to Elsa (5) Democracy Is Not Good For China

Dear Elsa:

I, too, am very pleased to see your country elect a new president. I think Mr Biden and I will get along.

You speak of the power of renewal. You are right in this. Renewal for us means providing the conditions so that every person can change their lives.

Because we are such a large nation – more than 1.4 billion people – our projects for renewal require massive amounts of investment, planning and a strong commitment to make sure they are completed on time.

The People’s Republic of China is doing this and the Chinese people see that it is being done. They see the roads being built and the new homes go up. They drink better water because of the aqueducts. They can go to the doctor because of the health clinics. They see themselves advance because of the schools and universities. They can play sports because of the fields and stadiums we have built. They can fly to see relatives because of the airports. They can travel on the ground with speed because of our bullet trains. It is a huge project to bring modern facilities to our citizens but we are doing it. The government is doing it.

We have come such a long way in such a short time.

You speak of democracy. I am not against it. I think it is a wonderful concept. We would all like to express our feelings and thoughts. But as Mr Biden himself said at the inauguration, democracy is fragile. Just two weeks before, a mob broke into congress intending to strip him of his victory. The electoral ballots could have been destroyed. And it happened as the television cameras rolled.

Democracy is too fragile for China at this stage of our development.

We cannot afford to derail the great project of providing the infrastructure the country needs.

We cannot afford some charismatic person who decides they want to be king, to set about distracting our citizens from the grand task of building China.

And what person doesn’t want to be king?

Our collective leadership, which I am so honored to guide forward, recognizes this human failing. We recognize, too, that censorship is an imposition on our people but our citizens understand it is a sacrifice that must be made for the future of China.

Otherwise there would be chaos.

Your nation has a great tradition and as Mr Biden’s election shows, you are able to change direction. But look how hard it was to elect the two senators from Georgia that you need to have a majority? If you had not had so much money pouring into that election, the Senate may have stayed Republican, and what would that have meant for the future of your nation?

Deadlock. Obstruction. Lawmakers who want to be king interfering with the growth of the country.

We Chinese do not believe our economic model is for everyone but it works for us.

Yes, there are problems and we must censor speech at this stage, but soon we will have achieved all that is needed so that every citizen has a chance to develop as much as their capabilities allow.

Our nations are different so let us have mutual respect.

The Chinese people wishes for your nation to prosper as you pursue your path while we pursue our own.

Thank you

Xi Jinping


People’s Republic of China

Founded October 1 1949  oscar valdes@widehunmr

Elsa and Xi (4) In A Democracy We Can Change Our Minds

Dear Xi:

Thank you so much for your reply. I was not expecting it.

Tomorrow is a great day for America. The nation gets to see a new president take office. We chose a different one because we disagreed with the direction Mr Trump was taking us in.

We didn’t like that he showed no inclination to bring us together as a nation. With him it was all about pleasing his supporters. But America is composed of many groups, all of which must learn to work together.

We didn’t like that he didn’t show competence in handling the pandemic.

We didn’t like that he tended to dismiss our longstanding allies, underestimating the work that had been patiently done over many decades.

We didn’t like that he got us out of the Paris Accord on climate change when the entire world is making efforts to stem global warming.

We didn’t like the way he was addressing our racial issues.

Xi, we could remove Mr Trump, because we have a democracy and the president is up for reelection every 4 years. And even if we liked a president, they wouldn’t be able to serve more than two terms.

Why do we do this? Because we know that human beings are fallible, all of us, and renewal is essential to our survival.

So, even if the Chinese like you a lot, they should have a right to hear other viewpoints and decide if you are the person to continue leading them forward.

There are so many examples of human beings’ propensity to think they own the truth. But truth about anything is hard to own. The search for it takes time and we must be open to hear other opinions.  

Science teaches us a great deal about this. To explain natural phenomena, scientists first come up with a theory. Then people set out to prove it. So long as research shows support for the theory then it is valid, but the moment new evidence is produced that disproves the theory, then the theory can no longer be supported and scientists have to come up with another one.

Science teaches us, then, that living with doubt is essential and so is the working to resolve it.

In a democracy, we can change our minds. In a democracy we accept that mistakes are part of growth and that we can rectify them.

This is why I was so disturbed when you decided to eliminate the limits on your presidency.

I understand that China has suffered from many invasions by foreign powers and that the Chinese people wish to affirm themselves in the world, but why should freedom of expression be sacrificed?

Just like inventions come up that help us do things better and more efficiently, so too with leaders. Others will come up who have a better idea to lead us forward.

To let the process work, we need freedom of speech. When speech is censored, those imposing the restriction are saying they are afraid of free thought and will use whatever force at their disposal to suppress it.

But that blocks the forward path of the nation.

Are you so afraid of what your people will think or say that you have to censor them?

To censor speech is to do to a mind what locking a child in a box will do to stunt their growth. The child will not have a chance to grow and when he or she is let out of the box their bodies will be deformed. It wasn’t so long ago, that some women in China had their feet bound to prevent their growth.

There is no justification to censor speech in a nation with the abundance of talent and creativity that China has. To do so is to stunt its development. To do is to deprive not only China of its possibilities, but the world’s as well.

Xi, you are now a respected leader. You have helped lead a nation to economic and military might. But the nation’s civic growth is just as important if it is to achieve a proper balance.

I am sure Confucius would agree.

The good news is that you can still change direction. We will all be most grateful. And in the eyes of the world you will have a very special place.

I look forward to hearing from you again,

Very best to you,

Elsa oscar valdes@widehumr

Xi Jinping Replies to Elsa (3) Nothing Will Stop Us

Dear Elsa:

I am glad to hear from a person interested in world affairs and with a specific interest in our country.

There are some thinking mistakes that you make, but it is understandable because your people lack the political education we have.

China is fond of America. How can we forget your great victory in WWII? And you are right. We have learned much from you and will continue to do so. We have learned more from you than you from us.

We understand that we have to borrow from the West to expedite our development. All Chinese know that. We do not see it as stealing. We see it as the price outsiders must pay for doing business with us and profiting from our great markets.

Now and then we will sign a trade agreement saying that we will not insist that a foreign country establishes a partnership with a local one, but that is just to get you to come over. Once you are here and see the benefits of working with our superb labor force, then you will not complain when we start copying your techniques to establish our own enterprises. Eventually, our own companies will outcompete you because we will make the product better and cheaper.

China is a much older country than America. You have not suffered like we have at the hands of foreign powers that came to repress and abuse us. And it is not only foreign powers that have brutalized us, we have been brutalized too by our own internal divisions.

But we have learned.

The world now knows that Chinese labor is the best in the world. The world also realizes that we are very creative. You mentioned our going to the moon. Did you know that we didn’t get help from any nation? That is right. We did it all on our own.

You mention censorship. The Chinese understand that this is simply part of a phase of development and they are willing to sacrifice.

The Chinese people also understand that human beings’ tendency to disorder – which I call human entropy – is at the root of individualism and its inevitable excesses. To counter this negative tendency, we created a collective system that is fast becoming the envy of the world. Our collective system works because it leads to greater creativity and a sense of national purpose. And it is this, along with our political discipline, what gives vigor to our common purpose and one day will make us the strongest nation in the world.

Yes, you are right. China wants to do that. And Elsa, there is nothing that can stop us.

America will not be able to. You love our products. You want more, not less.

Businesspeople from everywhere want to come here to work and invest. Like you say in America, this is where the money is.

In time, the Yuan will replace the dollar as the premier reserve currency for the world. That will be a great day. I may not see it but you will, for you are much younger than me.

I am proud to be China’s leader. Proud to lead a nation willing to sacrifice for our children and grandchildren as we march together toward an ever brighter future.

We can do it and will, for we have learned the power of patience and hard work.

May serenity and bliss be always with you.

Xi Jinping


People’s Republic of China.

Founded October 1, 1949 oscar valdes@widehumr

I Will Run, Not Walk, To Get My Vaccine

Yes, indeed.

After all the effort that vast numbers of creative and diligent minds have put into it,

Do you think I’ll hesitate about taking it?

Not at all.

Can something go wrong and I’ll end up with as yet unknown adverse effects?

I’ll take my chances.


Because I trust in science.

That same science that was skeptical when talk of Hydroxycloroquine was rampant and then, after subjecting it to rigorous studies, proved it was not useful.

That same science that was at first uncertain of the value of masks but then, after studies, fully endorsed it.

Science, yes, physics, mathematics, engineering, biology, medicine, astronomy etc., which lengthen and enrich my life.

You and me, have today the chance of living longer because of science,

You and me, are less likely to die of heart disease, of cancer, because of science,

so why shouldn’t I believe that this grand effort to produce a vaccine – with unprecedented speed – will spare me the possibility of catching the infection and, if unlucky enough, succumbing to it?

Some people will not be able to take the vaccine because their immune systems are compromised, so when I take mine I lessen the chance that they will catch the virus.

You are entitled to refuse it, but in doing so, you are adding to the problem not lessening it.

To the skeptical, no, the government is not trying to injure you but to help you.

Billions of dollars have gone into creating the vaccine, and billions more will go into producing massive numbers, storing and distributing it, training personnel to administer it, so why not step up and do our part?

So, yes, I will run, not walk, to get my vaccine,

and I hope you do, too.  oscar valdes@widehumr

On Demagoguery – PiSTE – Power in Submission Thinking Error.

When a nation or an Aggrieved group of people perceives itself as being challenged by a Rival group, they have the option of competing or attempting to suppress them. If either of those approaches fails, then the resentment of the Aggrieved for the Rival group will grow.

The Aggrieved group may continue to search for a solution or, if despairing, settle instead to be led by someone who comes along with an idea to relieve them of their pain.

But anyone who comes along with such an offer will want something for it.

The person presenting themselves as the problem solver will say to the Aggrieved group, ‘I see your pain, I feel it, and you are right to feel as you do and here I am to fight for you.’

What that person will want in return is the surrender of the group members’ individuality.

When the Aggrieved group gathers to hear the leader, the individual members will not have a question and answer session at the end. Their meetings will not be set to reflect on their doubts and recriminations as to why they have failed. Their meetings will not be set to educate, but instead to affirm their cherished views, regardless of a changing world, all of which the new leader is most glad to validate for them.

The new leader needs room to maneuver, and thus he is not to be questioned. He will do the strategic thinking for the Aggrieved group.

‘I will make you feel good about who you are, as you are now,’ says the mighty leader.

Implicit is that thought and self criticism is to be sacrificed in the interest of feeling. But once you adopt that position, the stage is set for abuse to happen.

Speaking from his elevated stage, looking down on his followers, the leader is promoting a transfer of power from the group unto him.

The leader will ceaselessly remind the Aggrieved group that they are better than their Rivals, that their views should reign supreme, and that the challenge the Rival group poses is, indeed, the reason for all their ills.

The Aggrieved group’s core beliefs are to be seen as immutable. The simpler the communications, the better. Complexity is to be avoided. Tweets are perfect for this exchange.

Left out of the discussion is why the Aggrieved group did not better organize itself to fight against the Rival, instead preferring to blame and disparage.

If the above is familiar to you it is because this is what is happening in America today.

Many Americans have surrendered their power to a leader who never dared to challenge them, just like he did not dare to challenge himself.

There is no real power in political submission but merely the illusion of it.

A mind that does not question itself is a mind that settles for less. It is a mind that defrauds itself. It is a mind that chooses to die.

Oscar Valdes     oscarvaldes@widehumr

Of Human Folly

Warning. This may be shocking.

I watched the documentary Greatest Events of WWII, on Netflix, with commentary by British, German and American historians.

In early May 1940, the German army quietly amassed ground forces just north of the border with France, in secret preparation for an attack. They had just gone into Belgium and the Netherlands.

Due to the perceived superiority of the French forces, no one expected such an attack.

French reconnaissance spotted the forces being gathered and immediately notified their High Command. But High Command didn’t believe the information.

That’s right. Did not believe the information.

The Germans couldn’t have moved so fast, not after what they had been through – they had to be exhausted. But they had moved fast.

Aside from the supreme daring, the Germans had used another secret weapon. Meth.

That’s right. Labelled Pervitin, Methamphetamine was available over the counter in Germany as a picker upper. And the military gave it to its soldiers to enhance their endurance. They could stay up all night and again the next day.

Thanks to Meth, then, the soldiers who had invaded Belgium and the Netherlands, still had it in them to push on to France, defying the French commanders’ calculations.

The historians commenting on these facts point out that if the information provided to the French command by their reconnaissance had been believed or double checked, then they would have been able to use their air force to bomb the German troops as they sat waiting to reach critical force. But they did not.

Who knows what was distracting the French High Command.

I had always wondered, how come the French, having witnessed their neighbor’s aggressiveness and territorial grabs (Poland, Austria), had not prepared for an eventual invasion. Well, they had.

At the time, France’s combined forces were seen as superior to the Germans. But the French lacked the imagination. And the Meth.

One of the historian commentators goes on to add that had the French believed the information presented to them and attacked the Germans first, the war’s course would have been seriously altered.

But the High command was in denial.

Of Human Folly.

Here’s another one for you.

I read in The Economist, issue of August 8th, an article on CoVid testing. Pool sampling.

A means to accelerate testing by pooling samples. Take the combined samples of 5 people who are not symptomatic and if the test is negative, they are all negative. You move on. If it’s positive, then you test individually to isolate the case. The technique saves time and resources, so we can test more people and better trace and get a handle on the virus.

Is the technique new?

No. In the 1940’s, says the article, Robert Dorfman, an American economist, came up with the idea to test American soldiers for syphilis.

On July 18th 2020, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency declaration to start using pool sampling nationally.

Did I say that the technique had been around since the 1940’s?


Eighty years after the invasion of France by the Germans, a virus crossed the oceans to come to our shores.

The American High Command had been told by their reconnaissance that the virus was gathering force.

The High Command didn’t believe it.

The Commander in Chief himself was worried with an impeachment process stemming from the Ukraine affair, and deeply concerned about his chances at reelection.

He didn’t have time to pay attention.

Of Human Folly.

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation. Available on Amazon.

Biden and Stuttering

The Democratic National Convention came to a rousing end last night. Biden’s speech was forceful and encompassing. He reached within and stirred by his strengths invited us all to join in the effort to unite the nation, and to move forward with confidence to address the wrongs that afflict us.

And though he didn’t voice Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous words, Biden’s call to join arms in the struggle for a better America was all about that, ‘There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.’

Biden’s has been a life dedicated to public service.

The contrast with Trump is clear. When did Mr Trump ever think of working for the public good except for when he decided to run for President?

That the nation chose to ignore the importance of assessing the person’s track record in selecting a leader, will forever mark the period leading up to the 2016 election as one during which the nation suspended its critical powers and settled for superficial charm, bells and whistles, at the expense of substance.

Sadly, none of Trump’s contenders at the time had the wisdom to denounce the charade as it was unfolding and vigorously fight to expose it.

Mr Trump’s performance has set the nation back enormously, not only in loss of lives from CoVid 19 but in the deterioration of our economy and our position in the world.

So where does stuttering come in?

Biden has suffered with the condition since childhood and has overcome it. To our surprise, last night, in the final day of the convention, just before he makes his closing speech, Biden gives a young boy struggling with stuttering a precious moment of airtime. Facing the nation, the boy stammers and sometimes halts, unable to push out the words, but he does.

When he felt blocked, the child paused, gathered confidence and moved ahead, each and every time. In the tense silent moments when words did not come – moments filled with awkward uncertainty – it occurred to me that maybe it hadn’t been a good idea to give the child such prominent airtime. But I was wrong.

Biden’s instincts didn’t fail him. The segment was probably prerecorded but it didn’t matter. Even if it had been recorded live, one is left with the sense that the child would’ve gathered the gumption to pull through.

That moment, that child, that condition, was emblematic of the nation.

Our nation will stutter, will even doubt itself, even make grievous mistakes, but in the end will find the strength to push ahead and do what is right for its people and those nations that choose to be open to what we stand for.

The spirit of what Biden brings to the fight to assert what is best for the nation was evident throughout the convention.

He will exclude no one, not Trump’s supporters, not those consumed by racial hatred, and instead reach out to attempt to persuade, reach out and ask everyone to join him in overcoming the blocks that keep us from contributing to the strengthening of America.

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation. Available on Amazon.

First Generation or Second?

They were standing in line for ice cream when they started talking, very much mindful of social distancing and both wearing masks. It was a hot summer day.

CoVid 19 and the expectation of having a vaccine came up. Just a few days before, Russia had announced that they had produced one. The news had aroused skepticism in the scientific community, in and out of Russia. Had the rush to being first sacrificed safety?

The line for ice cream was long and moving slowly.

Robert was dark skinned and spoke with a Hispanic accent. Carol looked Hispanic but had no accent. He was in his mid thirties, she in her early twenties and they had never met before.

‘You were born here?’ asked Robert.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘my parents came from Paraguay. And you?’


‘What a mixture we are,’ reflected Carol.


They chuckled.

‘That would make you second generation American,’ said Robert.

‘First generation,’ she answered.

‘Ah, I don’t agree.’

The line moved forward a little.

‘Why’s that?’ asked Carol.

‘First generation is the one that made the trip. The one who generated. The generation that will have an accent for the rest of their lives, no matter how hard they try. First generation will always be asked “Where’d you come from?” Even though they may have been in this country half a century.’

Carol smiled. ‘I am first generation born.’

Robert shook his head. ‘I think first generation should not be qualified, it should be exclusive to those who made the trip. Those, who like me, don’t intend to go back.’

‘I think you’re being too rigid,’ said Carol.

He smiled. ‘Maybe. You speak Spanish?’

‘I don’t.’

‘Chose not to?’

‘Didn’t happen. But I’m working on it.’

‘I love the English language,’ said Robert. ‘I love Spanish too. But I came here because of other reasons.’

He stood in front of her but had turned around to face her and didn’t notice the line advancing again. She reminded him of it and he moved up.

‘It is very good that you are choosing to learn Spanish,’ Robert said.

‘Thank you.’

‘I tell you something. I think of myself as a New American. I don’t go around saying that but, in private, that’s how I think of myself. So when people look at me a little strange because I speak with a heavy accent, I feel okay. I just tell myself, I am a New American, the person I’m talking to just doesn’t get it.’

‘Cool,’ said Carol.

‘I tell you something… in my dreams, I speak without an accent.’ He gave a proud smile when he said it.

‘That’s funny’ replied Carol.

‘In my dreams, I’m perfectly fluent, just like you, and the language flows so nicely. I love seeing myself speak in my dreams. But sometimes, I speak in Spanish too. It depends.’

The line moved up again. There was only one attendant taking the orders for ice cream.

‘I wish I had a job where I worked mainly with language… but maybe later.’

‘What do you do?’ she asked.

‘I work in construction. I do everything… walls… plumbing… electrical. I like it. I keep a list of the properties I have helped build, so I can go by on my days off… get out of my truck and stand nearby… watch the people going in and out… and I say to myself… I helped build that. That building is there partly because of me. I take great pride in what I do. And sometimes I go and watch other workers do their jobs… and when they see me looking at them, I give them the thumbs up… and they wave back.’

It was now his turn to put in his order and he told the attendant what he wanted and then said to Carol, ‘I treat you today.’

‘Oh no, that’s okay, thanks.’

‘Please, let me treat you.’

‘All right,’ consented Carol, and she stepped up to order her serving.

Ice creams in hand they strolled a few paces down the sidewalk, social distancing in mind.

‘I share this with you… soon after I came to this country… I was standing on the roof of a building laying on the tile. It was very hot and I wore a wide hat and had to be careful not to lose my balance and slide off the building and break my neck. Then I noticed that a person standing on the street below was looking up at what I was doing. I looked back expecting that they would give me some sign that they approved of what I did. But the person just stared back. I just shrugged and went back to my work. But I said to myself, why couldn’t that person just wave at me?’

‘Didn’t take much,’ said Carol.

‘So that’s why I do it. I always wave at people that are doing their work. Just to say thank you.’

Then she said, ‘Thank you for the work you do.’

‘You’re welcome.’

‘I have to go now,’ said Carol. ‘Thank you for the conversation. I enjoyed it.’

‘You are most welcome. Don’t forget, I am first generation and you are second generation… but we are both New Americans.’

And with that, they raised their ice creams to each other in a gesture of friendship and she started walking away down the sidewalk.

Robert looked after her, quietly pleased that she had acknowledged him and, quietly hoping that, one day, he’d have a daughter like her.

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation. Available on Amazon.