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Only the strong survive
"Gangs of New York": Painful story of immigrants

By Nat Bartel
December 23, 2002
The Iranian

Couple of nights ago I went to see the highly anticipated movie of the year "Gangs of New York" which after the 9/11 is a great historical overview for us Middle Eastern immigrants.

I am not going to write a critique of movie -- that is not in my bag anyway! The movie is about an old story, the struggle between immigrants and natives in America, in the name of honor.

All the time that I was watching the movie, I was wishing that it was less violent, so I could show it to my students in our Iranian Sunday school. I wish they could see that it is nothing bad to be a child of immigrants and different in some ways.

The struggle between natives and immigrants is in human nature. Natives want to keep it all for themselves, and immigrants are just looking for a better life, more peace, more freedom, and more opportunities, maybe.

I couldn't help but laughing when the Billy Butcher (a great performance by Daniel-Day Lewis) was categorizing people in the New York: Whites, Nigger's, and Irish Immigrants! Is there anybody in the world with the skin lighter than the Irish? Then it was the Jews' turn to be harassed and after that the Italians. And now it's the tan Middleasterners. The only thing this nation is allergic to be is color, I guess.

America is a survival game, and we all know the saying: "Only the strongest survive."

It was a thrilling experience to see the movie showing the pain every immigrant experiences, that we all come with great hopes and fight really hard for what we want -- really hard. We just want better, we don't want the war that is already going on back home, and then we face even a bigger one in the Promised Land.

The monk in "Gangs of New York" says something to the effect that "We didn't expect the war in Ireland to follow us over here; we didn't want bloodshed any more." Last week an Iranian guy said the same thing in front of an immigration office in southern California.

I really want to ask all Iranians to go and watch the movie. It eases our pain a bit. Earlier immigrants experienced much tougher times. As the saying goes: Just when I thought I was so screwed, I saw people 10 times more screwed than me.

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