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Nancy Kochmann, Published January 12 2011

Best to open mind, heart before shooting off mouth

I was troubled by the letter written by Jason McDonald in Sunday’s (Jan. 9) Forum. While renewing his driver’s license, McDonald noticed a group of gentlemen of Somalian descent assisting one man who was apparently also seeking a driver’s license.

McDonald expressed astonishment that the young man could not read, write or speak English. McDonald’s astonishment quickly turned to disgust as he concluded that this gentleman was unemployable and thus a tax burden to “real American people who have to put up with this waste-of-life person.”

My questions for McDonald: Do you know anything about this young man other than the fact that he has not yet mastered the English language? Do you know anything about people’s daily existence in Somalia?

McDonald would not have had to look far in Sunday’s Forum to get a glimpse, as an article on Page A4 illuminated ongoing atrocities by insurgents who beat and execute Somali men and women for wearing traditional clothing or even talking with one another. In addition, many families are completely destitute in this war-torn country.

Furthermore, because this young man did not know English, McDonald wanted to know “who let him in?” It is ludicrous to think immigrants and refugees fleeing their countries have the opportunity to learn English before they come here.

The egocentric, judgmental attitude expressed by McDonald is itself an atrocity. Does McDonald know why this young man sought refuge in America? Did it not occur to him that this young man is someone’s son and perhaps somebody’s father? Moreover, it is completely possible this man is employed or at least seeking to be. In addition to learning a new language, laws, customs, and institutional requirements and procedures (such as obtaining a driver’s license) are all part of the huge learning curve immigrants and refugees must face.

I find solace in the fact that the young man was with friends and family who were helping him learn the system. It is my hope that this young man’s adjustment to this country will also be eased by the kindness and nonjudgmental support of strangers who take the time to teach him, learn from him, employ him, or just get to know him.

May I suggest to McDonald and others like him that they please take some time to open their eyes, minds and hearts before opening their mouths.