As America celebrates her 241st birthday on July 4th, GV Wire asked some immigrants, both new and old, what this day means to them.
GV Wire has reported on the story of Thafer Kashak: a Syrian man, who along with his family, escaped the brutal regime of despot president. Carrying their lives in what they could pack in a suitcase, Thafer and his family initially settled at a Jordanian refugee camp before escaping there and eventually winding up living in Fresno.
“Personally, I consider this day, this Independence Day as the Independence Day of my country. (It is) the same feeling I felt when I was in (Syria),” Thafer said through translator Mujtaba Yousuf. “I consider this occasion and this event as my own event because I live on this land right now.”
Amrit Pal Singh immigrated to the Central Valley from India nearly 30 years ago. He still appreciates the freedoms bestowed upon him.
“Freedom gives me the right to speak and the power I enjoy,” he tells GV Wire. “I have the right to speak; I have the right to live my life freely; I have the right to live and enjoy my religion and practice my religion freely. That power in itself is the freedom which I enjoy.”
His wife, Jasbir Kaur, though feels there is a responsibility that comes with those freedoms. “You shouldn’t be crossing your limit if you have the freedom. That doesn’t mean you go do wrong things or bad things that are going to hurt people. Or that is going to have a bad effect on our community or society,” she says.
Although he was in America for July 4 last year, this is the first time Thafer will celebrate in full. He plans to participate in most July 4 traditions with some twists. It includes time at the beach.
“Of course I will go,” Thafer said of his impending trip to visit friends in Monterey. Barbeque is a yes. Baseball is a no. “Everything is good for my family,” Thafer says in English.
Hot dogs are probably another tradition Thafer will forego. “My favorite Fourth of July plate is shawarma.”
However, fireworks is one thing he is still unsure about. The loud bangs serves as a reminder of the warfare back in his native Syria. “Because of the war in Syria, I don’t like this noise.”
Jasbir also alters the traditional July 4th menu. “I invite our family over. We have a barbecue. We are vegetarian mostly, we do vegetarian barbecue in our backyard and have fun games for the kids,” she says.
Finally, Thafer has special request for President Donald Trump. “He’s my friend. I would like to invite him to have lunch with my family.”