To those who haven’t experienced the phenomenon known as Uber: it’s not just a taxi company with a Teutonic name, whose valuation has gone from $60 million to $50 billion since 2011; it’s also an improbable reminder that America’s melting pot still bubbles. I have yet to meet an American-born Uber driver, and perhaps as a result I’ve heard some poignant stories. I wrote in March of a young Eritrean man who fled to Sudan, was kidnapped for his body parts and ultimately ransomed by his father. More recently, I had a young Palestinian driver who had grown up an Israeli citizen in Jerusalem, come to America where he married a refugee from Guatemala who had been adopted by a woman from one of Baltimore’s first families. The couple, now settled in Boston, were awaiting their first child. Although he had fled from the Middle East, he carried none of the baggage of hate we associate with that place, blaming the violent passions on political opportunism, not ethnic animosity.
Yesterday, my driver had fled from Yemen because his family had been on the wrong side of the civil war. “When I was 13,” he told me, "they put me in jail. It was because of my last name." He will never return, he said, the tribal conflicts will never end. But he wasn’t looking back. “I want my son to understand what we have here.”
I am inspired by these stories of gritty immigrants for whom America still represents a beacon of hope.