Jeffrey here. Joey took the day off to sit in a plastic bag.
Nothing in America is real unless it’s validated on TV. Thus the Ride for Human Rights will become real on May 18, when I appear on Time Warner’s channel NY1 as New Yorker of the Week.
It’s not about me. It’s about WWJ&J&JD (see Joey’s post on the subject) and about the immigrants and refugees to whom Americans owe help and acceptance. It’s about Human RIghts First and its projection and protection of American values. It’s about getting donations so that HRF will receive a $25,000 matching grant!
Human Rights First, the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, and the Nashville Institute for Community Empowerment, exist because Americans – not just in multicultural NYC, but in the Heartland – share their principles. I saw on the Ride that people from New York to Nashville are fairminded and kind. They support HRF and similar organizations once they understand how law, philosophy and religion require us to help the stranger, and how our community and our country benefit from these newcomers and would benefit from sensible laws.
To top off the Ride, I met some new friends of HRF here in the Land of Billy Graham.
Almost 30 supporters of the Nashville Peace and Justice Center turned out today to meet Joey and me, to hear about the Ride, and to learn about the state of immigration law and policy in our country.
After speaking, listening, teaching and learning with this group of activists, including Lindsey and Amelia from TIRRC
– hearing about local problems, and telling them what I’ve learned – and after riding 1007 miles from New York to Nashville, I got off the Lightning and called it a day.
This year’s Ride, like last year’s, beggars description. The weather was better – less rain, no hail. The route was shorter (1007 miles [1621 kms] versus 1216). There were fewer mountains. I had more scares: The Philadelphia bridge. Being hit by a car that swerved onto the shoulder in Maryland (I suffered only a flesh wound, but it took days to settle my nerves). Vehicles whizzing by too close. (The vast majority of drivers kept their distance.)
The few dogs that chased me didn’t come close to catching me. Virginia and Tennessee are awash in concealed pistols, but I heard gunshots only once (at a distance) and never saw a weapon or felt threatened.
These tidbits, and the daily stories and photos I posted, help convey a feel for the journey. But you really had to be there.
From start to finish, I did not hear a harsh word about the Ride’s goals or HRF’s principles. Some people expressed fears or uncertainties, but no one said that our country should hurt or reject good people – and overwhelmingly, immigrants are good people.
The Ride leaves me hopeful. When we put aside loud talk, my unscientific encounters suggest that regarding immigrants and refugees, most of us Americans are on the same page.
Everywhere I went, I had offers of food and water, offers of shelter, offers of help, directions, discounts, friendly words and waves, and people’s time and insights. Strangers – some evidently poor – handed me cash totaling almost two hundred dollars, all of which went to Human Rights First.
My friends at Human Rights First, foremost among them Lauren Trinka and Justin Howard, kept information flowing both ways, and out over the blog to you.
Special thanks to Amy & Richard Glazier (DE); Irene & Mario Salazar (MD); Karen & Ned Wisnefske (VA); Barry & Heidi Allen (TN); and Jeremy, Robin, Charlotte & Julian Veenstra-VanderWeele (TN), for taking me into their homes. Even more than the wonderful food and shelter, I valued their company after days alone on the road.
My children – Deena, Rebecca, and Benjamin – helped me every day with logistics and encouragement.
The Experts say that a long-term relationship, such as a marriage, is healthier if the parties wear rose-colored glasses. That is, they see things not as they are, but as they want them to be. Sometimes seeing a partner in that rosy light is self-fulfilling; it makes hope into reality. Sometimes it is self-delusion. But without self-delusion, none of us mortals would get out of bed in the morning.
Nancy, who cheerfully puts up with my foolishness – riding cross-country with a kangaroo puppet is the tip of the iceberg – sees me through rose-colored glasses. How else could such a charming and successful person stand me for so long? (We’ve been friends for over 37 years, an Item for 32 of them.)
In contrast, my glasses are crystal clear. I see Nancy exactly as she is.
But the effect is the same. A rose viewed through clear glass is not only rose-colored. It is, in fact, a rose.
The self-delusion of a long-haul bike ride is addictive. Air, light, motion, are invigorating. Life becomes simple. One enjoys day after day of what Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (who was educated at, and taught at, The University of Chicago), calls “flow“. It is hard to leave that flow, hard to return to a place awash in things that conflict with our ancient hard-wired hunter-gatherer nature. But Nancy is back in the city. As long as Nancy, my friend, my rose, is there, I want to be nowhere else.