Hamed: The Story of a REAL American
What makes America so great? Why do so many people flood the states with applications to get a taste of the American Dream? What is the American Dream? To answer these two question, I met Lyft driver, a Turkish immigrant, and Jewelry designer, Hamed. After a small thirteen minute drive with the Turkish immigrant, I knew he was more American than most of America.
Who is Hamed?
My first impression of Hamed was when he drove past me after I waved him down. After running to the car, I noticed the sheer amount of nervousness on his face. After nervously trying to take a U-Turn and not succeeding, I told him to just relax and take Ward circle.
As our ride continued, I wanted to assure Hamed that he needed not to worry about taking wrong turns or missing the GPS guidance. After all, I wanted to talk to this young, nervous Turk. He seemed like he had a story to offer, and a story did he offer.
Why did Hamed come to America?
Was Hamed fleeing Turkish oppression? Was his family hunted down? Did his daughter face Islamic oppression? Nope, Hamed came to America because he wanted to gain opportunity. Even though Hamed wasn’t Muslim, he explained that living under an Islamic state was no different than living under a democratic state.
What opportunities is Hamed trying to get?
Hamed was trained and certified in Turkey to create jewelry. He worked tireless hours to learn his trade; so, naturally, when he came to America, it was worthless. For Hamed, transitioning into the American Dream is an ongoing struggle. He faces three significant obstacles while becoming American. He must endure citizenship, professional training, and the cultural transition to American norms: all while working sleepless hours supporting a wife and a daughter.
What angers Hamed the most?
As I was asking Hamed’s story, I noticed two recurring themes that agitated him: intolerance and bureaucratic red tape. Though he recognizes his government wasn’t directly oppressing him, he classified himself as a refugee to be able to enter the nation of opportunity and leave the country he saw a lack of opportunity for him and his family.
The Red Tape
After entering America, Hamed proudly wanted to register himself as a citizen. He was told he needed to wait six full months before he could begin the process. He needed to prove that he was a working American with prospects and interests that did not counter national interests.
What does this mean?
Hamed tried to get a job as a jewelry creator, but he was restricted by even more red tape. Though he has been working years as a creator in Turkey, he remains to be unqualified by American standards. This means Hamed must balance school, work, and family life with understanding the citizenship test.
Hamed faces intolerance from his age, his creed, the color of his skin, the language he speaks, and even his familiarity within the city he lives in.
Hamed explained how he had yet to even reach his mid-life crisis, but he had a fourteen-year-old daughter. This isn’t uncommon in Turkey, but every time he goes to pick up his daughter from school, someone asks him an annoying question: are you her father or her boyfriend? The cultural shock didn’t end there.
Creed and Color
Hamed described to me how he wasn’t religiously affiliated, but the city around him had a constant hatred towards him. He faced Islamophobia on a daily basis simply because the looked a certain way. Through the culture he was proud of, he presented himself in a “non-American” demeanor through his appearance and conversations.
One clear thing I noticed when I entered the vehicle is he barely could speak English. He depicted moments where his inability to speak English caused outrage. For me, however, I thought his language skills were impeccable. He spoke three different languages fluently and for someone living in the United States for only a few months, he could easily get his point across.
I joked with him about the time America almost adopted German as the official language and explained that he shouldn’t worry about his English fluency; after all, it’s only an unofficial language. We both shared a laugh as he made a wrong turn.
Hamed also became increasingly frustrated with his phone. He missed two turns and needed to correct his drive more than a satisfying amount of times. Nevertheless, I assured him that the path didn’t matter nearly as much as the conversation we had on the journey to my destination.
One thing I noted was that even I, with my two years living in DC, would find it incredibly difficult to drive through the city. Someone like Hamed certainly doesn’t deserve ridicule for learning the city in such a short amount of time.
He joked, “I don’t miss turns on purpose, yet people yell at me when I do. They think I am trying to make the trip longer. As if an extra five minutes’ time will earn me an extra dollar. Okay, maybe sometimes I take a different route, sometimes.”
Nevertheless, hating your driver for making a missed turn isn’t inherently the driver’s fault. Driving within a city is difficult, being new at the city makes it much harder.
Summary and Closing Remarks
Driving with Hamed became an experience beyond the simple thirteen minutes coming from my apartment and going to a birthday party. On June second, I was able to meet an America and wish him the best of luck in completing his process in becoming one.
What does it mean to be American?
When I got out of the vehicle, I wanted to thank Hamed for being American because Hamed contained within him what the founding fathers saw to be American values. He worked hard to start a new life despite government obstacles in order to create better opportunities for himself and his family.
Hamed works longer hours doing a job he must because he cannot do the job he enjoys; Hamed goes to school to learn a new language, culture, and lifestyle; Hamed faces hatred because of his ethnicity, his presumed religion, his age, his language, and culture. By any account I can care about, Hamed is already an American citizen.