Joel from Eritrea

Friday night cab ride. Never sure what you are going to get.

Sometimes the cabbie is happy. Sometimes they are unhappy. Sometimes they just kind of surprise you.

It was a winter night. Warmer than it was in the afternoon. But still colder than I want.

At least the crowds have died down.

I was the typical DC passenger, nose buried in my phone, looking at whatever digital jibberish that littered my screen. And I heard the driver on his phone. So, I figure, simple ride home.

We pass the Supreme Court and the driver asks, in an accent I couldn’t quite place, “Did you go to the court today?”

Not entirely sure what he is talking about, I say, “No. I didn’t make it over.”

“I wanted to see the justice, but the line was too long,” the driver responded. In his immigrant accent.


I was surprised in ways I didn’t expect. Yes, Justice Scalia was a highly respected man. Yes, he influenced the court. But, let’s be honest, as a child of immigrants, Scalia wasn’t known for his pro-immigrant positions.

“Where are you from? What is your name?”

“Joel. From Eritrea. I’ve been here eight years,” my  driver responded.

I asked, “Joel, did you agree with Scalia’s decisions?”

“Agree or disagree, it is the court. We must respect the court,” Joel replied

In these days, when presidential candidates tussle with popes, when the level of discourse sees no floor, it was Joel from Eritrea who reminded me of two things: People are people, and institutions must be respected.

Seems new Americans may very well be the hope of America.