A Wad of Money in America
So, you got one guy, a Republican congressman, who wants to hold hearings into Muslim extremism in America, and you got another guy, a Muslim Democratic congressman, who starts crying.
Jeez, when did it become OK to cry in Congress? If they're not crying, they're sitting on each other's laps in a cuddling show of solidarity. What's next, laying on the floor and spooning?
Where I live, in the urban Northeast, Muslims are the guys who own the discount cigarette store six blocks from my house. They're Pakistanis. Or they own the gas station 10 blocks from my house. They're Pakistani, too.
When my blond wife wears sunglasses into the discount cigarette store, one of the guys who own it tells her she looks like a movie star.
The guys who own the other gas station near my house are Syrian Christians. I know an Egyptian who owns a mini-mart.
Sure, there are Muslims in this country plotting my demise, just as there are right-wing Christian freak-a-doodles plotting to blow up synagogues. That's one thing the two groups of freak-a-doodles have in common — they both want to kill Jews. No matter what kind of cuckoo clock you are, you've always got time for the Jews.
Eighty years ago, there were a lot of small Jewish-owned businesses in my poor little city. Back then, the Jews were pretty poor themselves. They got Americanized, sent their kids to college, and the kids ran for the suburbs. The Jewish funeral home closed 10 years ago. One of the city's two synagogues is up for sale.
The Jews moved on, the Muslims moved in. It's America. People who can't speak English are always showing up, buying a corner store or a laundromat in a poor neighborhood and then spending the next 30 years counting nickels for 15 hours a day. You can end up driving a Mercedes that way, but it takes a lot of open-to-close hump-busting.
So, for us, the Pakistanis and the Syrians of both religions and the Indians are all just people with accents. My grandparents on my father's side had heavy French-Canadian accents, and a number of people I know have parents who speak only Portuguese or Spanish, or maybe Haitian Creole.
And, yeah, you got crazy-ass Muslims in America mixing up explosives in their basements and plotting to blow up big office buildings, send planes spinning into the ground, drop poison in the water supply. You got piney woods white boys plotting to do the same things. One of 'em did it in Oklahoma.
Five days after 9/11, I stopped in a local gas station to fill up. The owner, a man with a Middle Eastern accent, filled my tank and took my $20.
The day before, two native-born white boys had tossed a firebomb through the window of a gas station owned by Pakistanis.
"Anybody bothering you?" I said to the guy who filled my tank.
"I'm Syrian Christian," he said.
"Some people don't know that," said.
"You're the only one bothering me," he said
We both laughed. I'd been in that station a hundred times.
Guys who own those we-pump-it-for-you stations always carry a big wad of bills, to make change. The guy wrapped my $20 around the outside of the roll, then held it up.
"You see this?" he said. "Every country should be like America. This is all that counts.
"In my country, you can't make a business because of politics," he said, holding up the wad of money. "Here, you got this, I sell you gas.
"Do I got Jewish customers?" he said. "I don't know. Maybe. I got Christian customers. Maybe I got Moslem customers. I don't know.
"You got money, I sell you gas," he said. "You work. You take care of your family. Every country should be like America."
Sometimes, I'll go in the Pakistani cigarette store for a cigar, and after I pay, the guy will give me a free lighter.
"For you, my friend," is what he says, "because you and your wife come in here all the time."
"Those people do business like the Jews did when they owned a lot of stores," an old Jewish man said to me when I told him the Pakistanis give me free lighters. "They know their customers, and they'll give a little to get a little."
If we beat the terrorists, it won't be with bombs. It'll be with millions of greasy, hardworking hands holding a big wad of money in America
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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