“You know,” he said, “I wouldn’t have let your family in, either.”
Standing in a conference room at the Congress Hotel in downtown Chicago, Sam held my gaze in that sideways glance of his, waiting to gauge my reaction.
“I understand,” I said. “And I agree. You shouldn’t have. But I’m here now, so let’s make the best of it.”
I had known Sam Francis for a couple of years by the spring of 1998. Having held the position of assistant editor of Chronicles for a mere eight months or so, I knew that I would be getting to know him far better in the coming months. Outside of discussions of deadlines (Sam routinely asked for an extension because, he averred, he could not possibly make his latest monthly deadline, coming as it did only one month after the previous one), this had been our longest conversation so far, and now I understood why.
I don’t recall why or how I had brought up immigration, but in response Sam had inquired about my ethnic background. I replied as I always do—German Lutheran from Alsace-Lorraine on my father’s side; Polish Catholic from Poznan on my mother’s. It was the latter revelation that prompted the comment that others might have seen as a declaration of war, but which I took as simple immigration realism.
Only minutes before,...