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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trust me President Elect Tump it's the Lamp that makes us great not your wall.

This Holiday Season, I am wishing all our immigrant brothers and sisters peace, joy, and love. A little Walking Man memory immigrant story dedicated to every immigrant who leaves home for a new life. Especially for those new immigrants coming to America.  It is a long one people. I hope you stay around. 

My people the Irish have been emigrating for centuries. I am the grandchild of Irish immigrants. I am married to an Irish immigrant. When you are close to immigrants. You learn being an immigrant means leaving home, your family, and everything you knew that comforted you. It means being 3000 miles from your mother as she is dying. They come to deeply love their nation's folk songs, dances and writers. My love for Irish music, writers and dance are my grandfather's legacy to me. Even after immigrating to America, the men in my family often had to go where the work was in America. So, they would leave for a week, a month, 6 months, and sometimes a year. Their families left behind lived by their mailboxes. When a letter with the money was delayed or lost, the other families would chip in food, clothes, or a few dollars. It's an immigrant kind of thing. It's a common bond that holds them strong.

What is it like to leave it all behind?
I was in my late teens when my grandfather needed his tag along ride to accompany him to a wake (Irish Funeral) of one of his immigrant buddies. I was his tag-along ride for many years, but especially as he grew older. Those tag-along rides grew my Irish soul. 
Michael and my grandfather knew each other from the boat ride to America. Fought on the Green Fields of France in 1916 together, attended each other's wedding, their children's Christenings, and the wakes of their love ones. They shared thousands of pints of beer, smoked a million cigarettes, shared their hopes, wins and losses, and for 35 years painted the bridges all around New York.  Drinking, smoking and soul opening conversations, that's another immigrant bond.  It a typical immigrant story really, some came by boat, some by plane, and others walked, and they held on to each other. Holding together is another immigrant bond.  

This is less about the Michael's passing, but about the most beautiful bond immigrants share. Those songs and memories they carried in their hearts. Those songs that held them together. 
After Michael's wake at the funeral parlor everyone retreated to some Old One's house for food and punch. Let me make something clear the term old one in Irish culture is a term of respect. Our Old One hold us together. This Old One's place was I really in Marie Hennessy's parlor. She was a fixture I knew growing up as a child. Always watching out for us as we played in the streets. Too many old faces I could not remember them all, but they remembered me, and made sure I remembered them. It'd another immigrant thing. Remembering is important. 

I have been to many Irish wakes. When the person is really old, they are not sad events. We mourn, but the mourning is fulfilling. People share beautiful and funny stories, they eat, drink, and finally we sing. We learn to embrace death with courage, hope and love at Irish wakes. 

This gist of this story is about the beauty of a wake, and strength of America's immigrants. As the hours grew late, the liquor took its effect, first a fiddle, then a tin whistle, next the Mandolin, and then comes the singing. The ladies sing, the men sing, and everyone sings. Trust me when I say singing is the heart of any immigrant. The Ladies sing "I'll take you home Kathleen" to remind their men of the promises made to take them home again. The men sing Irish Rebel songs. Then come the lament songs, the pouring out of the grief, the sorrow, the passion and lost of leaving your home behind. It's the laments that hold immigrant souls together.  In Grandfather's time, most immigrants left, and never went home again. It's something the old immigrants shared with today's undocumented immigrants. If you are undocumented it's the same. You can't go home. Going home means you can't come back. Besides going back after 30 or 40 years means being a stranger in your own homeland. My grandfather would love thees undocumented. His bond with them would be strong. For immigrants it's the journey not the status that unites them. 
My grandfather's song, his choice a lament: "Leaving Nancy" it's a new tune, (late 1960s), but it could have been written two hundred years ago. It was born a classic. It's about a son emigrating leaving his mother behind. For my grandfather that day was the last time he touched his mother's face, brushed her hair, held her hand, and hugged her. This immigrant stuff takes strength, determination, and courage. It's the stuff every immigrant got plenty of. It's the stuff that makes them. 

He starts: 
The parting has come, and my weary soul aches,
I'm leaving my NancyO'

But you stand there so calmly determinedly gay,
And you talk of the weather and events of the day,
But your eyes tell me all that your tongue doesn't say,
Goodbye my Nancy O'
And come a little closer, put your head upon my shoulder,
And let me hold you one more time, before the whistle blows.

My suitcase is lifted and stowed on the train,
And a thousand regrets whirl around in my brain,
And the ache in my heart is a black sea of pain,
I’m leaving my Nancy O'

And you stand there so calmly so lovely to see,
But the grip of your hand is an unspoken plea,
You’re not fooling yourself, and you’re not fooling me,
Good-by my Nancy O'

For our time, has run out and the whistle has blown,
And here I must leave you standing alone,
We have so little time and now the time's gone
Good-bye my Nancy O'

And as the train starts gently to roll,
And as I lean out to wave and to call,
I see your first tears, trickle and fall,
Good-bye my Nancy O' 

Before it ends every man in the room joins in. Every eye is watering, because this is the immigrants bond. It's a sea of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters left behind. It tough to be an immigrant. At times it hurts so much that not even all the drink in the world can buried it. This is the tag-along bond of an immigrant’s grandson. This is the bond that made the man I am. The old man always said you have to walk in another man's shoes to know him. His song was his way of allowing me to step into his shoes. Immigrant shoes far too big for me. He sang it, he built it, so I could live it. It's stronger than our flag, it's stronger than our laws, it the stuff that makes America Great. 
With all due respect President Elect Trump, America is already great, and a large part of that greatness comes from the immigrant bonds that sacrificed it all for this American dream.
Love, peace, and joy to every immigrant soul out there,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner 

If you like to his the tune that lifts this Walking Man today its the Fury's version of Eric Buggle's "Leaving Nancy"


  1. Jesse: I was at a conference recently just after it became known that Trump would be our next president. One of the keynote presenters changed his keynote address and, instead, played a video of Bruce Springsteen's version of "Keep You Eye on the Prize". It was a fitting reaction:

    Ernie Pancsofar

  2. Dr. Pancsofar, Carl Sagan “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
    This is going to be tough fight to take back truth in our nation. I am going to the Women's March in DC on 1-21-17 in DC. That seems to be a good starting point for me.
    Peace and Happy New Year