When things start going haywire in this world, I start thinking that I’m the crazy one. When our president unleashes an executive order, restricting travelers from certain countries with majority-Muslim populations from entering the United States, I wonder if I’m the one who’s nuts for thinking it’s xenophobic fear-mongering to placate the xenophobic, fear-mongering voters who put him in power.
Luckily, I’m able to quickly shake that feeling and remember that I’m on the side of righteousness. How can I be sure? Two words: Bruno Sammartino. The Italian-born Sammartino is one of Pittsburgh’s most famous residents, known for being one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. Sammartino was worshipped like a God in my house; my father thought that Sammartino had been touched by the hand of Zeus and given supernatural powers of strength and charisma.
Sammartino has long been an important part of this city’s history; he was a big deal in wrestling when wrestling was really a big deal. But while he’ll always be a Pittsburgher, he was in fact born in Italy in 1935, four years before the start of World War II. During the war, Sammartino and his family hid out in the mountains of Italy when German soldiers invaded their village. In 1950, Sammartino was able to immigrate to the United States, and the rest was history.
By now, everyone reading must know where I’m going with this and realize the only way some folks around here will listen to anything is to turn it into a sports conversation. Some will also say I’m oversimplifying the situation by comparing Italian immigrants or other European immigrants with the situation occurring now.
But by closing our borders, we are closing ourselves off to opportunities. We are also preventing others from reaching a wealth of opportunities; these include people living in horrible circumstances, whose only solace is that someone is there to help them or take them in. That used to be us, and with the stroke of a pen, now we’ve shut some of those doors.
Bruno Sammartino was my very first hero. It makes me sad to think that some future kid’s hero is being prevented from getting into this country because of fear.