America – the “melting potï¿½? of nations – we were called in the heyday of immigration. The melting pot may be pictured as the giant crucible of competition, heated by the flame of capitalism – that made the steel of the American temperament. Those poor “huddled massesï¿½? of the early 1900′s that Emma Lazarus addresses in her poem (on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty) became strong, independent, liberty lovers once they dreamed the American Dream. And even today when Liberty is somewhat hobbled, it continues.
My and my wife walk in a new restaurant in Huntsville, Alabama. I notice that most of the kitchen and service help are short, dark-skinned, almond-eyed folks. The women, I’m thinking to myself – not loudly enough for my wife to hear – are quite pretty. Are they Mexican, Central American, African?
I grab one of the short, exotic waitresses. Well, I don’t really grab her. I just shout, “MAMï¿½?! I interrogate her using my special, innovative linguistic technique which omits adjectives, articles, and multi syllabled words. This results in “country which one?” instead of “what is your nationality?ï¿½? Due to my linguistic skills, we can dialogue: me and this exotic. Incredible, what I learned. This new American is from a land called Nepal. A most difficult land in which to make a living. Crunched Between China and India and elevated by the Himalayas, it is mainly known to us Kipling lovers as a recruiting field for “Gurkhasï¿½?. Fierce fighters – “soldiers of the Queenï¿½? who laughed at rifles and specialized in a short, curved sword. The British Army was steeled with Gurkha regiments from the late 19th Century to now. Recruiting British Grenadiers was a snap because making a living in Nepal was not as easy as serving customers for tips in a Huntsville, Alabama restaurant. Yes, there is farmland, but most of it was vertical. Soldiering was and is an honorable, ancestral profession to male Nepalese.
They tell a World War II tale wherein the Brits tried to recruit an all-Gurkha Paratroop battalion, but to the amazement of the British officers, only about a third of the dark, swarthy fighters stepped up to volunteer. Disappointed, the officers elaborated on the strength of the parachute, etc., etc. “Oh, there’s a parachuteï¿½? – the entire battalion chuckled and shouted with glee and stepped forward.
How the world has broadened. Now a Nepalese girl who plans on a management degree from the University of North Alabama brings me my iced tea. I said “good, goodï¿½? several times and I tipped her extravagantly. And as she walked away I inspected her carefully to make sure a short, curved sword wasn’t slung over her back.
America – the melting pot – now more than ever.