EASY ED’S BROADSIDE: Stick to the Music
Luis Gustavo Alvarez (photo via Facebook)
Submitting a weekly column to No Depression and getting to write about music has never been what I considered hard work. Given the latitude to cover basically whatever pops into my mind rather than being assigned a topic, it’s rarely been too difficult to come up with something that hopefully readers will find of interest. On a few occasions I’ve gone off the beat, straying into areas or events that are either topical or perhaps controversial. As you might imagine, I’ve gotten feedback from some folks to “just stick to the music,” and so I try very hard to do that, until I can’t.
I’ve been troubled these past few weeks, or maybe a deep funk would be a better way to describe it. I can pinpoint the first time I felt the knot in my stomach; it was around the Fourth of July. A man had just died of cancer, and his obituary said it was linked to the three months he spent at ground zero of the 9/11 attacks searching for survivors and bodies that he helped pull out of the toxic soil. Luis Gustavo Alvarez was only 53 years old.
After he graduated high school in 1983, Alvarez joined the Marines, and after serving he attended classes at City College in New York. He joined the NYPD in 1990 and was a detective in the narcotics division when we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. The New York Times‘ obituary noted that before he retired in 2010 he was recognized five times for his excellent police work. He then took a job with the Department of Homeland Security, until he was diagnosed with cancer and it became too debilitating to continue.
Two and a half weeks before he passed away, Alvarez went to Washington, DC, to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and urge them to continue offering health benefits to first responders who have fallen ill. “I did not want to be anywhere else but ground zero when I was there,” he said at the hearing. “Now the 9/11 illnesses have taken many of us, and we are all worried about our children, our spouses and our families and what happens if we are not here.” (Fox News)
Luis Gustavo Alvarez was born in Cuba. He was an immigrant who came to America, became a citizen, served his country, and was a hero to many for his efforts. And at death’s doorstep he had to plead in front of the politicians in Washington to put forth what should be the simplest, most nonpartisan, no-brainer effort: Give aid to the survivors. The House passed its bill to extend funding for the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, but a vote on the Senate measure was blocked by Sen. Rand Paul, who cited cost concerns.
Less than two weeks after Alvarez’s death, our House of Representatives voted to condemn the president of our country for using racist language. Using his favorite communication tool, he had lashed out at four Democratic women of color — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — tweeting that they should “go back” to their home countries despite the fact that all four of the women are US citizens and three were born in this country.
Back on Labor Day in 1980, when Republicans were conservative but not yet the xenophobic white nationalist party of today, candidate Ronald Reagan stood with the Statue of Liberty in the background and said this about immigrants:
“These families came here to work. They came to build. Others came to America in different ways, from other lands, under different, and often harrowing conditions, but this place symbolizes what they all managed to build, no matter where they came from or how they came or how much they suffered. They helped to build that magnificent city across the river. They spread across the land building other cities and towns and incredibly productive farms. They came to make America work. They didn’t ask what this country could do for them but what they could do to make this refuge the greatest home of freedom in history. They brought with them courage, ambition, and the values of family, neighborhood, work, peace, and freedom. They came from different lands but they shared the same values, the same dream.”
In January 2018, the current Republican president shared his thoughts on immigration:
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”
Ask Luis Gustavo Alvarez, an immigrant and true American hero.
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed here at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard and Facebook as The Real Easy Ed: Americana and Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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