A Letter to the Mayor of Boston, Michelle Wu
In the wake of new draconian measures, a teacher speaks up.
Dear Mayor Michelle Wu,
I believe that the descendants of immigrants are often the ones who can say with the most clarity what it means to be American.
I am the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of refugees. Following World War II, my maternal grandmother fled the ethnic cleansing of the Volksdeutsche in Croatia; in route to amnesty, she begged for bread from farmers who slammed the door in her face. My maternal grandfather, a budding intellectual and speaker of five languages, hid in the apple orchards of his village in Hungary, from where, after the communist regime declared an end to inter-village gatherings and banned him from attending school, he dodged Russian machine-guns and sought refuge in New York. Before arriving in Boston, my paternal great-grandparents managed to survive one of the most brutal genocides of the twentieth century. Now, all I have of their history is my surname, shortened to a more pronounceable combination of six letters, and, save for that ethnic “I-A-N” at its end, cleansed of any evidence of Armenian tragedy.
I think you and I agree that to be American and to be the descendent of immigrants means to understand just how much government matters. I think you and I also agree that to be American is to ensure that we are taking care of each other in the face of danger.
Thus far, other American cities have sacrificed their liberties in the name of government mandates that were supposed to be for the collective good. New York, San Diego, and Los Angeles have imposed some of the strictest lockdown measures since the spring of 2020. They continue to mask and distance children who, due to the exploitive hands of Big Tech, are already deprived of the tech-free connections that teach them basic empathy. They continue to place restrictions on the business owners who perhaps less than one generation ago escaped caste systems that kept them impoverished. They’ve continued to make second-class citizens out of the unvaccinated, with no success at stopping the spread of a virus that is more than 98% survivable for individuals without comorbidities. They’ve prioritized contact tracing over all other pressing responsibilities, like reducing crime, restoring trust with law enforcement, and re-evaluating economic policies that have skyrocketed housing prices and made their cities affordable to only the most privileged and elite of Americans.
All this, plus boosters—and these cities have not tempered COVID’s relentless tantrum, with little to no reduction in case numbers, ICU hospitalizations, or levels of transmission.
These policies are not only ineffective but wreak indefinite havoc on the livelihoods of those who they claim to protect. Repeating the same policies and expecting different results is commonly known as the definition of insanity. And I know that you, Mayor Wu, are not a woman of insanity.
I know that you, Mayor Wu, are a woman of innovation, that you are brave enough to learn from the mistakes of the aforementioned cities and disrupt their policies that attempt to control the uncontrollable. I know that you, Mayor Wu, are a leader who makes decisions not based on appeasing the interests of the establishment, but on preserving the liberties of the descendants of immigrants who came to America because they understood that sacrificing safety to live in freedom from oppression is far better than living in fear of an oppressor.
Sometimes, being American means sacrificing some of my liberties in the name of protecting my fellow countrymen; sometimes, being American is acknowledging where my individual freedoms end and where my civic duties begin. And if there were an outside force invading the city of Boston—one that aimed to exploit our fear, censor our lust for knowledge and intellect, enslave our grit, and assault our spirit—I would gladly lay down my liberties in the name of upholding the virtues of the land that granted refuge to my descendants.
Such threats exist. And I know that you, Mayor Wu, can think of a far better solution than one that bans many Bostonians—the descendants of some of the most resilient, hopeful, and American peoples on the planet—the right to dine next to their fellow citizens, lest they relinquish their right to health freedom and inject themselves with a product developed by a multi-billion-dollar establishment that deceived doctors and knowingly enslaved millions of Americans to opioids.
I think you and I would also agree that we are a nation that so celebrates our accomplishments that the traumas of history often go unacknowledged; I learned of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution not from my textbooks but from my grandfather’s first-person narratives; from my mother’s mother, I learned to save the two-thirds-eaten remnants of a sandwich from my lunchbox; we covered Armenia for about a week in my junior year of history. From the unacknowledged traumas of my great-grandparents and grandparents, I know that to be the descendant of an immigrant is to experience in occasional doses what it means to feel unseen and unheard in our society.
I know that you, Mayor Wu, understand that so many are unseen and unheard in our society. And I know that you, Mayor Wu, have the power to see and to hear Americans like me, descendants who share our histories with our fellow Americans—too many of whom plug their ears, shield their eyes, and respond, with ill-informed idealism: “Don’t be silly. Such oppression would never happen here.”
Thank you for your time.
Ms. Catherine J. Dorian
English Teacher, Writer, Entrepreneur, Descendant, and resident of Greater Boston.
 White House COVID-19 Team, Data Strategy and Execution Workgroup. 2021. COVID-19 Community Profile Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.