The Home of the Not-So Free and Not-So Brave

The other day I dropped in on a man who I consider a friend, even though a more accurate connection would be “coworker”.

At the last job I worked at, we had sub-contractors. One of them was run by a man named Khaled. He was, and still is, one of the hardest working sub-contractors we had. We often over-loaded him with requests and jobs that other places would have balked at. But he did everything he could to get the work done. When I was working as a shipper and driver, called him the Miracle Worker. But early on, many of my co-workers called him various Arabic-sounding names, or just the usual racist-sounding terms. Sadly, Khaled had to prove his worth before they would refer to him by his proper name.

During the uprising in Libya, where he’s from, I would ask how things were with his family back home, and I was quite happy to hear his family was fine and that the uprising was successful. I also learned a little about Ramadan, when Muslim people fast for a month, only eating at sunrise and sunset. I always enjoyed seeing im and chatting with him. He’s a smart, friendly, clever man, who’s always welcoming and ready to do whatever you need to help get a job done.

When I was laid off, besides all the other crap going on in my life, I regretted not getting a chance to say goodbye.

Which brings me to yesterday, when I was down in Khaled’s neck of the woods and decided to drop in for a visit. I thought of bringing coffee and donuts, but it’s Ramadan, so that was out.

We got caught up and I told him of what I had gone through with losing my job and searching for a new job for the past ten months. 

He told me of a different side of the job hunt, one from the perspective of an immigrant. I had always considered myself more open-minded to such things than many of the people I know. But hearing his thoughts and stories about what he went through and what others went through reminded me of how little we who were born here truly know about people who come to our country from somewhere else.

Khaled himself has a degree in chemistry from an American University. Not the University of Baghdad or Libya, or some other Middle Eastern school, America. Yet with his knowledge and skills, the government people couldn’t find him a job that would fit the skills he had. He was fortunate enough to create a job for himself that utilized his skills. But it reminded me of what our country, and other First World countries are missing. So many people in other countries go to university to learn a skill or gain knowledge that’ll help tem find a good job in North America. But when they get here, they have to jump through hoops to see if they are qualified. I’m sure some get through and find work, but how many do you see driving taxis or working for minimum wage? 

It made me wonder if someone came from a Nordic country, blonde haired and blue-eyed, with the same qualifications, same language difficulties, as a Middle Eastern man, who would find a job in their field? Sadly, it wouldn’t be te dark-haired, dark-skinned man with perhaps the thick beard or turban on.

Of course there are people who would say that losing jobs to immigrants is ruining the country. Thing is, those same people probably don’t understand how lucky they are to live in a country that isn’t run by a dictator, bombed daily, or have to live in true poverty. They don’t understand the hardship some people have to endure just to come and have what we take for granted everyday. When they finally do get here, they are treated by many in society as “lesser-thans”. They may not think of themselves as racist, but when they talk negatively about someone who isn’t from this country, you can bet their nationality is used as part of their description. “Those dirty Somalis”, “Frickin’ Pakis”, “dumbass Ragheads”, “Camel jockeys”… sadly, it goes on.

It no wonder when people from other countries come here, they seek out others from their country or religious background. They form communities to protect themselves and their beliefs, because if they are different, they don’t fit in, and they don’t get the jobs they are trained for.

The one surprising thing I gleaned from talking to Khaled, was the lack of trust between us. His example was an electrician was called in t fix something in his shop. The bill was enormous, with many parts to purchase. While purchasing these things, he came across a Turkish man who worked at Home Depot. This man saw what Khaled was buying and offered his services. Turns out, this man was an Electrical Engineer. He fixed Khaled’s problem for a fraction of the cost. When he told the electrician, the guy had the gall to want a fee for work he was scheduled to do.

It made me wonder about the electrician’s costs. Yes, I know their services are expensive, but I wonder if he saw some smallish “Arab” man and decided to take him for as much as he could? Then you have this Turkish man, who offered his assistance for very little, but did it not to gain favor or for pay. He did it because he saw a way to use his skills, instead of schlepping at Home Depot.

People who are born here grow up with the belief they can do whatever they want. Many of which end up settling for whatever is available. Those tat settle than bitch and complain when people from other countries come here, knowing the value of any money, and take their jobs. Perhaps if those that settled understood that no job is small, that ever job serves a purpose, they wouldn’t complain and would do their job and be thankful to have it

People who come here want the same thing for their kids that we want for ours, to be able to do whatever they want. The difference is, they have parents who know what true hardship is. They are reminded of their past, where they came from, and what could have been if they hadn’t left. I truly believe they appreciate what available here more than those that were born here do.

The main point I got from talking to Khaled is that you must do for yourself. Find what you enjoy and continue at it, regardless of the situation. For immigrants, it is even harder. They have to fight against their own differences, racist thoughts and remarks from society, and organizations set up to help them controlled, predominantly, by government fat cats wo only want their pay cheque and don’t see their job as way to welcome new people to this country.

Hearing about immigrant issues from the talking heads on TV is one thing. Hearing about it from someone who has gone through it is quite another.

I always liked to joke that, compared to America, Canada was the home of the free and land of the brave. But I suspect neither one is truly free or brave when it comes to dealing with strangers to our lands. Many so desperately want to come here, yet they aren’t treated with open arms. They are told to wait, and wait, and wait some more. All the while, they see how any people treat new-comers. When they are finally given a chance, they jump through hoops, only to learn whatever skills they might have had aren’t worth much, even if their skills are sorely needed.

I just wonder how well many of those who look down on immigrants would fare if they had to move to a country where they didn’t know the language, and were treated differently? They’d bitch and moan until they were shot or disappeared.

Welcome to the land of the not-so free and not-so brave.


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